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HEALTH

Hamburg clinics ‘denied surgery to migrant’

A 55-year-old man from Ghana died from multiple organ failure in Hamburg earlier this month after five different hospitals refused him surgery.

Hamburg clinics 'denied surgery to migrant'
The Asklepios Clinic St Georg in Hamburg. Photo: DPA

Research by the Hamburger Morgenpost (MOPO) suggests that Steve O., a 55-year-old from Ghana, was denied emergency treatment because he did not have health insurance.

The Ghanaian had needed heart surgery, but was refused treatment at Asklepios Clinics in St. Georg and Harburg, as well as the UKE hospital, the Albertinen hospital and a clinic in nearby Lübeck.

Steve O. died before a hospital could be found to treat him.

The 55-year-old had entered the country without documentation and as such did not have health insurance in Germany.

But the hospitals have denied the accusation that the refusal was based on his lack of insurance.

Spokespeople for the UKE hospital and the Albertinen hospital said that their operating rooms were being used at the point of the emergency and that they simply didn't have doctors available to operate on Steve O.

“Medical emergencies are always treated – regardless of the patient's insurance status,” the Albertinen hospital spokesperson said.

“It wasn't possible for us to know that the time period for a transfer of the patient was so short,” a spokesperson for the Asklepios hospital said. “On the next day a transfer would have been possible. But by this time the patient was in no position to be moved.”

Steve O. had been taken in to the Asklepios Clinic in Wandsbeck for treatment on September 3rd, the day of his 55th birthday.

He was thought to have meningitis and was put in intensive care. At first his situation stabilized, but six days later doctors detected an inflammation in his heart valve. Because the Wandsbeck hospital did not have heart specialists, they tried to have him transferred.

The seriousness of his condition meant “he needed to be handled by a heart specialist and his transfer into a specialist clinic became necessary,“ a spokesperson for the Wandsbeck Clinic told MOPO.

While refugees receive health insurance at the point of their registration in Germany, people who come to the country but do not register with authorities are not insured.

HEALTH

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination. 

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