Aleksandar Šiljak, a young medical doctor, must have imagined his first day at work differently. An ophthalmology specialist, the day after the opening of the COVID Ward in the hospital Gradiška, in mid-March 2020, discontinued his speciality training, returned to his hometown and joined the medical team. He has been there since, one year into the pandemic.
“Since we encounter very severe pneumonia cases, these patients often receive up to 30 litres of oxygen per minute,” says Dr. Šiljak, adding: “We live for those days when they are recovered, ready to go home.”
During the pandemic, the hospital in Gradiška became a regional hub in combating coronavirus. In addition to residents of Gradiška, it also provides medical treatment for residents of the neighbouring municipalities of Srbac, Kozarska Dubica, Kostajnica, Novi Grad, and Laktaši.
“We’ve had several cases of foreign nationals suffering from COVID, not only from the neighbouring countries of Croatia and Serbia, but also patients from Iran and Pakistan,” says the hospital’s director, Rajko Dodik.
European Union’s support in the pandemic
With solid organisation, commitment and team spirit, significant support to the hospital in Gradiška comes in the assistance of medical and protective equipment donated by the European Union within its assistance programme to BiH in fighting coronavirus, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“All devices came as a donation from the European Union – from patient monitors, X-rays, ventilators, ultrasound – all used daily in the Intensive Care Unit at the Gradiška Hospital, which speaks volumes of the need and importance of these devices,” says director Dodik.
Proud of her team, the Head of the Pulmonology Department and the COVID Department in Gradiška, Dr. Branka Milošević, says that so far they have provided for nearly 800 patients infected with coronavirus.
Although they are very well organised now, her work does not stop when her shift is over.
“Unfortunately, I cannot turn off my phone at all. I have to be constantly available to my doctors and nurses on the ward. Even when I’m on vacation, it’s impossible not to answer the phone.”
Dr. Milošević points out that the pandemic’s silver lining is the growth and development of all. From the 29-year-old specialist, Dr. Šiljko, to the seasoned head nurse of the COVID Ward of 35 years of experience, Darinka Grujičić, all have been tirelessly studying and looking for new ways to cope with the pandemic.
“The goal is simple,” explains the Head Nurse, Darinka Grujičić, “to have as many patients as possible winning their battle against this vicious virus, while we, the health workers, stay safe.”
Donation of medical and protective equipment to the hospital in Gradiška, in the value exceeding BAM 250,000 through the European Union Assistance Programme, significantly facilitated the work of medical experts in difficult conditions. That is why they are optimistic about further fight against coronavirus, calling on all citizens to comply with the prescribed measures to protect themselves and their loved ones. The European Union has set aside a total of EUR 7 million to support medical institutions in BiH in the fight against coronavirus.