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Many Prominent Slovenians Agree That During These Catastrophic Times, Calling for Protests Is Simply Unacceptable

“I have a hard time imagining that while the number of covid patients is skyrocketing and we are approaching the Bergamo scenario, a normal person would actually call for a mass gathering of people at an illegal protest,” Dr Frace Cukjati commented on Dr Brigita Skela Savič’s calls to Friday’s protest. In a tweet, she wrote: “Let’s go! Let’s protect the Constitution, human rights and our dignity!” However, Cukjati believes that her appeal actually means “Let’s go! Let’s disregard the law and the human right to health and humiliate them until they are nothing but corpses and ashes!” In these catastrophic conditions, the call for protests is the lowest thing that a politician – let alone a healthcare worker – can do, Dr Federico V. Potočnik, an infectious disease specialist, pointed out. He also called on Skela Savič, who is a prominent member of the Social Democrats party (SD), to listen to the medical experts and help stop the spreading of the infection instead of calling for protests.

“Her appeal – ‘Let’s go! Let’s protect the Constitution, human rights and our dignity!’ actually means: ‘Let’s go! Let’s disregard the law and the human right to health and humiliate them until they are nothing but corpses and ashes!’ or into a tool of bling political hysteria. And this woman, who calls for people to gather in the centre of infections, is supposed to teach about ‘patient safety,’” Dr France Cukjati commented on the appeal of a prominent member of the SD party. As a doctor, Cukjati certainly understands the current situation very well, and that is why he emphasised that a doctor or someone who works in healthcare and who, for material or political reasons, intentionally misleads (future) patients and puts them in situations that are detrimental to their health and lives, should be subject to a license revocation procedure. “Don’t even get me started on her suitability for pedagogical work,” he added.

Dr Brigita Skela Savič is not a doctor, but this does not justify her actions. We can read in her CV, among other things, that she is a high education professor and a researcher at the Angela Boškin Faculty of Health Care. “She is a researcher of healthcare management, long-living society, promotion of health, elements of professionalisation of nursing, and other healthcare professions,” reads her CV. But unfortunately, her behaviour paints a different picture. Communication expert Edvard Kadič is appalled by what Skela Savič is doing, especially because in this particular case, it is in direct opposition to science, which she is supposed to defend, given that she also lectures on, or at least deals with healthcare – “so this is a direct denial of the science within which she moves. This is actually really concerning for the whole society,” he pointed out.

Due to political blindness, the standards of our society are falling one by one
However, Kadič does not find it surprising that this came from the SD party – namely, similar calls have come from their party several times before already, and at this point, we should remind you of the calls for a school without masks – which unfortunately ended with the schools having to practice distance learning. It is more than obvious that all this has a political background, which the SD party articulates with its opposition – even if it means opposing measures that would, of course, be necessary to successfully curb the spread of infections. Lobbyist Miloš Čirič also agrees with Kadič, who is convinced that someone who has a role such as Dr Brigita Skele Savič calling for protests is an extremely irresponsible act – one that somebody who works in healthcare should certainly not afford. “It shows the current state of mind in Slovenia, where, also due to political blindness, civilisation standards are in turn falling,” he added.

Life expectancy in Slovenia decreased by more than a year during the epidemic
Infectious disease specialist Dr Federico V. Potočnik pointed out that we are currently entering the worst part of the epidemic. The number of infections increased exponentially, and with it, the number of ordinary and intensive care beds for covid patients had to be increased rapidly. Some people might believe that healthcare will always be able to find more bends and that there is no need to worry. However, in reality, the situation is alarming – because the number of medical staff is the same as it has been throughout the epidemic, a larger number of patients only means that standards of treatment are falling. You cannot just conjure an intensive care physician up overnight, so when there is too much work for them, other doctors who are less accustomed to intensive care work have to take over the additional workload, and in turn, their patients are taken over by other doctors with other medical specialties, and so on, all the way to the inclusion of students of medicine in the regular work process. “Not only is the level of covid patients’ treatment lowered, but other things also come to a halt: surgeries are not being performed, check-ups are halted, the waiting times get longer, and people die more often while waiting for treatment. Because of these reasons alone, the life expectancy in Slovenia was shortened by more than a year during the epidemic,” the infectious disease specialist added.

“In these catastrophic conditions, the call for protests is the lowest thing that a politician – let alone a healthcare worker – can do. And then it is all of us who work in the hospitals who have to face the consequences of calls similar to this one, that are artificially and unnecessarily prolonging this situation – masks that are not being worn, measures that are not being taken into account, people who are not getting vaccinated, and a state of mind that just cannot seem to calm down – all of this simply because some will benefit from the current state of emergency at the next election. And it is because of all of this that the medical experts proposed a lockdown, with which I very much agree because of clear epidemiological reasons. It saddens me that this needs to be explained at all, especially to a healthcare professional who even lectures to prospective nurses. I suggest that Ms Skela Savič starts listening to the medical experts and tries to help us stop the growth of the number of infections – she can deal with politics at another time,” Potočnik commented.

Now is the time for people to stand united, with the help of media and in politics as well, Potočnik pointed out. The healthcare system is collapsing in front of our very eyes, and a protest is something that will not help in any way – it will neither improve the situation nor help calm the situation in our country. Democracy works in Slovenia, the Constitution is solid, human rights are at an enviably high level, and even the European Parliament agrees with this assessment. Protests can wait. And so can statements that are this inappropriate. “Freedom for some comes at a very high price for all,” Potočnik wrote on Twitter.

Slovenia is at the very top in terms of the number of new infections – and this is no longer just a guess, but a fact
Even after the outpour of negative responses to her tweet, Dr Brigita Skela Savič still had not realised that she might have done something wrong. Moreover, she continued to post more tweets, in which she advised, among other things, that people should read about the recent decision of the Constitutional Court or watch a recording of a recent Sunday Mass, and she also wrote that the state of the epidemic is a result of inefficient management of the state by the government. The relevant decision of the Constitutional Court states, inter alia, that “general claims that rallies show a higher risk of transmission of infection than other forms of human encounters, made without providing any evidence, which resulted in such a severe and prolonged interference with the right to peaceful assembly and public assemblies referred to in Article 42 of the Constitution, are not sufficient. The prohibition must be based on facts and concretely established circumstances, not on assumptions. Nor is the abstract fear that measures could be violated at rallies enough to forbid them.” Referencing such a decision is downright foolish – Slovenia is currently at the very top in terms of the number of new infections, which is not a presumption, but a fact. And what is also a fact is that we are almost at the point of not having enough beds at the intensive care unit, and that there are more and more deaths. The statement that this is an abstract fear is a mockery of the entire medical profession, which has been working without a proper break for a year and a half now and is constantly trying its best.

“To use Bergamo, which is currently at a 92-percent vaccination rate, as a scare tactic, without doing your homework when it comes to the vaccination rate and timely actions, is utterly irresponsible! I think that Friday’s protest will not contribute to an increase in the number of infections,” Skela Savič also tweeted. Well, at this point, it is she who should read the decision of the Constitutional Court – her assumptions mean nothing. She also wrote that Friday’s protests are not directed against the anti-epidemic measures but against the ineffective measures that are being adopted by the current government. “The medical experts should also do their part and resolutely distance themselves from the measures that are insufficient in preventing the worst when the healthcare system will no longer be able to function,” she pointed out – but she is clearly not aware that the collapse of the healthcare system will be caused by those who do not adhere to the measures and still go to protests during this time.

Stricter epidemiological measures temporarily ban public gatherings
Minister of the Interior Aleš Hojs commented that he did not expect the people who have attended the protests that have been happening in recent weeks, who will also likely attend this week’s protest, to adhere to the measures and respect the temporary ban on public gatherings. Hojs also said that the government has followed the recommendations of the Constitutional Court in drafting the decree, so “people will find it difficult to argue that we are restricting anyone’s right to protest.”  He also pointed out that the participants of the rallies which took place on Wednesdays and Fridays in recent weeks do not respect the laws and decrees of the government, so he does not believe that they will act any differently this time. “I have said this many times before already – I myself do not believe that they have become any wiser between Saturday and Monday,” he said. Sadly, he is probably absolutely right.

Sara Bertoncelj

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