“Hungary pays tribute to the performance of healthcare workers”, President of the Republic János Áder said at the Semmelweis Day event held at the National Institute for Infectology and Haematology in Budapest on Tuesday.

“Our thanks to the staff of the South-Pest Hospital Centre, and to everyone who worked on the front line at many of the country’s other healthcare institutions: in general practitioners’ clinics, old people’s homes, ambulance stations, laboratories and hospital wards”, he said.

“During the current epidemic, we have experienced to a stronger extent than ever before what the work performed by people employed in healthcare, and to nurse the sick and the elderly, actually means”, Mr. Áder said.

“You have won the battles of recent weeks”, the President told healthcare workers, stressing that Hungary has succeeded in curbing the pandemic with a level of effectiveness that is enviable even in global comparison. “The war is not yet over; we still have no medicine, we have no vaccine”, he added, however.

“Whenever the epidemic was mentioned in recent months, one almost unconsciously switched to the language of war”, the President recalled. “For healthcare workers operating in an actual war zone, the unusual conditions are the most difficult, when possibilities are restricted, but the burden is huge; when doctor and patient are brothers in arms, and risk to life is an everyday thing”, he stated.

“Although the battle against the novel coronavirus was primarily fought amid the walls of hospitals, many things were nevertheless reminiscent of wartime uncertainty and a state of perpetual threat”, he said. He recalled that doctors needed to simultaneously understand and learn the working of a new kind of virus, and search for the right therapy without having available a cure and previous experience. He also drew attention to the fact that, despite the greatest possible precautions, people working in healthcare had a greater chance than anybody else of becoming sick themselves.

“Until the beginning of this year, neither my nor my children’s generation had experienced what it is like when our lives change from one moment to the next, when from one day to the next we must establish a way of life that is totally different to our previous one”, the President said.

Mr. Áder drew a parallel between the empty public spaces, unpopulated streets and virtual contact replacing personal meetings with the life and death battle against a hardly known enemy going on within the walls of hospitals.

“We were able to experience that the chance of living of a community, a country, and all of us, is dependent on with what level of spiritual strength those who were, and continue to be, closest to the danger work”, he stated.

“Thank you for nurturing hope in us (…), for reinforcing our faith, and for not only curing the sick, but to a certain extent all of us, who in these past months have been full of fear, worry and uncertainty”, he said.

“Behind the name badge, and the name on the on-call sheet, or hospital report, there is a mother, a father, a husband, a wife, or a child who has had to forgo many things, who has been missed by their family or partner often in recent months, and for whom, after every exhausting hospital shift there began another, at home”, he pointed out. “Every single one of their days was lived in the shadow of fear: have they done everything to ensure that they aren’t endangering their loved ones because of their work?”, the President stated.

Mr. Áder pointed out that over one and a half centuries ago, the country’s oldest Hungarian language professional publication, the Orvosi Hetilap (“Medical Weekly”), wrote in praise of the new book by Ignác Semmelweis: “The victory of the good cause is often late in coming (…) but success cannot fail to transpire”. “Healthcare workers know best of all that from a medical science perspective achieving a ‘final victory’ is much more difficult and complicated than a layman may think”, the President added, but said that having seen the commitment and conscientiousness of healthcare workers, and taking into account the experiences acquired, we have good reason to be confident that the final victory will also not fail to transpire on this occasion.

At the event, Minister of Human Capacities Miklós Kásler thanked the Institute’s staff and expressed his appreciation for their devoted efforts, following which he praised Ignác Semmelweis, who he called a benefactor of mankind.

With relation to the “saviour of mothers”, the Minister emphasised: “Hundreds of thousands and millions of children have him to thank for their lives, after he clearly determined the symptoms of postpartum fever, and wrote down not only how the infection spreads, but also the process of infection, and how it may be eliminated, prevented and radicalised”. “His findings remain true and still stand their ground today, for which there are few examples within the field of medical science”, he pointed out. He also drew attention to the fact that Ignác Semmelweis’s teachings were extremely new at the time, and were not accepted by the spirit of the age.

The Minister compared Ignác Semmelweis to the ancient Greek tragedy of Prometheus, who brought not fire, but life to humanity, to safeguard and create light.

Director General of the South-Pest Hospital Centre István Vályi-Nagy emphasised: “The country is over a difficult and challenging period”, after which, in addition to his colleagues, he thanked the Operational Group, the public, non-governmental organisations and enterprises for their assistance.

He pointed out that the Institute he heads was the first in Hungary to take on the fight against the coronavirus infection, and it remained active throughout the state of emergency. “The hospital is playing a leading role in innovative treatments”, the Director General said, adding that the Institute had stood its ground in an exemplary manner.

Following the various speeches expressing thanks, awards were presented to doctors and medical collectives who took part in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic.

(Ministry of Human Capacities / MTI)