There were 29 summer health centers promised to be opened during the tourist season 2021, since June 15. According to the Minister of Health Ogerta Manastirliu, this year, such centers, which are part of a program that has been implemented in the past 7 years, would focus primarily on the early detection and quarantining suspected cases of Covid-19. The Ministry of Health does not offer clear information about the budget allocated to such centers, and an on-site inspection found that several of them are missing, and that rapid testing of vacationers to detect COVID-19 early is not being done.
On the Facebook page of the Minister of Health Ogerta Manastirliu it was announced that “170 properly trained doctors and nurses, medicines and medical equipment, as well as rapid COVID-19 tests will be present at each summer health center” in order to ensure a safe tourist season during summer.
Screenshot of the official website of the Ministry of Health
A month later, according to the statement of Ms. Manastirliu during a visit to the summer health centers in Durrës, the number of medical staff would decrease by 40. The reason for such change was never made public.
“Approximately 130 doctors and nurses at summer health centers provide 24/7 emergency service in 29 tourist areas across the country. Rapid Covid-19 testing is also performed for free in each summer health center, seeking to detect suspected cases early and quarantine them”- Minister Ogerta Manastirliu stated.
The fund budgeted for summer health centers remains a mystery
“Faktoje” submitted an official request for information to the Ministry of Health regarding the budget allocated to the establishment of said summer health centers.
Request for information addressed to the Ministry of Health.
After the expiration of the legal deadline to respond, “Faktoje” filed a complaint with the Commissioner for the Right to Information. Following this procedure, the sole reply of the Ministry of Health stated that it was unclear what the term “fund” implied and which field it pertained to in regards to the maintenance of summer health centers for 2021.
Ministry of Health’s reply
“Faktoje” conducted further research on the budget of the Ministry of Health in order to find out about the costs of the establishment of summer health centers; however, nothing was reflected.
A second official request for information was addressed to the Ministry of Health regarding the locations of summer health centers.
Official request for information addressed to the Ministry of Health.
Ministry of Health’s reply
Following the Ministry’s provision of a list of locations, “Faktoje” visited each summer health facility from Theth to Ksamil to witness the well-trained staff’s delivery of service, the performance of quick testing to detect COVID-19 cases early, and the availability of ambulances, among other things.
Table created by Faktoje following the observation, displaying the status of summer health centers.
Lack of 5 summer health centers
On June 23, 2021, “Faktoje” conducted an on-site observation, finding that health centers in Vlora, Orikum, and Radhima were missing, despite the fact that the tourist season had officially begun, and that the center in Palasa existed as a facility but did not provide any services to visitors.
Approximately three weeks later on July 13, 2021, “Faktoje” found that there was no planned summer health center present in the Currila Beach in Durrës. This was also confirmed by visitors and businesses’ employees in the area.
“There is no summer health center here. Do not waste your time; if you are ill, you have to go to the central health center or to the one in your neighborhood” – a waiter working in one of the bars stated.
Visitors confirmed the same.
“As far as I am aware, there is no summer health center. If you are sick you have to go to the health center in your neighborhood”- a visitor said.
Furthermore, the inspection on July 26 also showed that there is no health center in Qeparo village and the beach area.
“There is no summer health center” – the waiter at a business in Qeparo said.
Another resident stated:
“There are no such centers. We have to go to Himara for that. It takes a maximum of 20 minutes to get there.”
COVID-19 identification and prevention
The doctors and nurses working at the health centers say that the main focus of early identification of COVID-19 and quarantining infected visitors is not being realized. Visitors go to health centers for insect bites, gastrointestinal problems, but not for rapid testing. Moreover, these centers are sometimes used by residents in the area, who opt to go there due to vicinity.
“We are 3 doctors and nurses here. The health center provides service only to visitors, but residents also come as they live nearby. We perform rapid testing when there is suspicion of symptoms, but they are not keen on it.”- the nurse at the summer health center in Divjaka beach told “Faktoje”.
Photo of Summer health center on the beach of Divjakë
Residents in the area confirmed the same.
“In the beginning they said that it was solely for visitors and Covid since foreigners would be arriving, but we also go there. Why should we go to the health center in the neighborhood when we can come here directly?” – a resident in the area stated.
“The summer health center is solely for beach visitors, but residents come to the center as well and we do not turn them away. We are 3 doctors and 3 nurses here. The center is open 24 hours. We perform rapid tests for Covid, although visitors do not prefer to have it performed.” – a doctor at the center in Durrës stated.
Photo of summer health center in Durrës.
The lack of rapid tests and medical staff
Another issue that “Faktoje” encountered was the lack of medical staff and rapid Covid-19 tests, particularly in north Albania.
On July 29, 2021, “Faktoje” visited the summer health center in Theth. Despite being one of the most visited spots in regards to mountain tourism, the health center lacked medical staff, as well as rapid tests for Covid-19. A visitor who had received first aid at the center confirmed this.
“There are no rapid tests for Covid performed. Only one nurse works there and she does her best. Medicines remain on shelves and I am uncertain as to how effective they are considering the heat.” – a visitor said after having received first aid at the center.
Photo of summer health center in Theth
The summer health center at Razma tourist attraction is located within the center that provides year-round service. “Faktoje” confirmed that there was a lack of medical staff.
“I provide first aid here whenever necessary. I do pay home visits as well due to circumstances, unfortunately. I have performed no rapid tests for Covid so far.” – the doctor at the center said, while writing a prescription to a patient.
Photo of summer health centers in Razëm
There is only one nurse in the summer health center in Valbona, who is available 24 hours a day.
“I am the only one working at the summer health center. There is no other medical staff. It is quite difficult.” – said he.
Photo of the summer health center in Valbona
Rapid tests for identifying COVID-19 are also lacking in Darëzeza, Fier.
“We are open 24 hours a day and we have medicines and drugs to provide first aid, but we have no rapid tests for Covid.” – the summer health center staff in Darëzeza, Fier, confirmed.
Photo of summer health center in Darëzezë
20 ambulances for 29 summer health centers
Based on the on-site observation, “Faktoje” concluded that not all summer health centers had ambulances accessible to provide emergency care.
At the summer health center in Rrjolla, Shkodra, there is a lack of ambulances and patients have to go to nearby health centers to receive services.
“There is no ambulance here; therefore we must request one from Velipoja or Shkodra. It takes approximately 20 minutes or more for the one that is less occupied to arrive. We provide first aid and then, depending on the situation, decide whether the patient requires more specialized treatment.” – the summer health center’s doctor stated.
Photo of the summer health center in Rrjollë
The same is true for Razma area.
“We are not open 24 hours a day. There is only one doctor and one nurse here. We do have rapid tests for Covid but visitors are not inclined to have them performed. We do not have an ambulance. When needed, we notify the nearest center to come to our aid.” – Razma’s health center’s nurse said.
In response to a request for information about ambulances, the Ministry of Health stated that there are 20 ambulances for 29 summer health centers.
Ministry of Health’s reply
To what extent have summer health centers provided service to visitors?
During a “Faktoje” assessment of the situation at health centers, it was discovered that places receiving a significant number of visitors, such as South Albania or Adriatic Sea coastal areas, had a better position since there is enough medical staff and rapid COVID tests. The summer health centers in Ksamil 1 and 2, Dhërmi, Drimadhes, Himara, Borsh, and Pogradec are equipped with medical staff and rapid Covid tests. The situation is similar in the summer health centers of Durrës and Kavaja, specifically in Gjiri i Lalzit, Shkëmbi i Kavajës beach, Golem beach, and Mali i Robit beach. The situation is also better in tourist areas in the north, such as Velipoja and Shëngjin, as confirmed by the summer health centers of Velipoja.
“We are open 24 hours a day providing service to visitors and to residents in the area as well. We perform rapid Covid testing for persons showing symptoms. We are 3 doctors and 3 nurses here. We also have an ambulance at our disposal for emergencies.”
According to a Ministry of Health report of August 7, the establishment of such summer health centers has provided service to 20 thousand vacationers.