Opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski strongly criticized the Government for its order to ban private hospitals from revealing the numbers of coronavirus tests conducted and the number of positive results. The strange order was given today after the Sistina clinic continued to embarrass the public healthcare system, both with the speed and affordability of its testing, and by revealing that the Government is likely undertesting at a time of crisis.
There is no reasonable response offered why they are doing this. A private hospital being banned from informing the public of the number of people who tested there and who tested positive?, Mickoski asked durign a TV interview.
Sistina is co-owned by businessman Jordan Orce Kamcev, who was the victim of an elaborate racketeering scheme by former Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva, allegedly in coordination with top officials of the ruling SDSM party. Kamcev’s revelations caused a major corruption scandal involving SDSM and it is only due to the prosecutors playing defense for the Government that just one top SDSM official (Frosina Remenski) was charged in relation with the scandal.
After the coronavirus crisis, Kamcev again came to the fore, as he offered his two Ibis hotels as quarantine space. One of them is in a building converted after serving as the site of the original Sistina clinic, and it is especially convenient for keeping Macedonian citizens who return from at-risk countries. A much shared post from the wife of Vladimir Milcin, leftist activist who was instrumental in the 2015 Colored Revolution, had her complaining that she has to be quarantined in the other of Kamcev’s two Ibis hotels after their trip to Peru. Milcin referred to herself and her husband as “fighters against the regime” who ended up in a “regime built quarantine”.
More importantly, the Sistina clinic began offering cheap and effective coronavirus tests that reveal the presence of antibodies. This shows whether the patient has an advanced infection or was infected and has now recovered. Given the lack of public sector testing, citizens who suffered from flu-like symptoms flocked to Sistina, and several other private clinics offering similar services, to have themselves checked. The public was shocked to learn that the private clinics are charging between 1.200 and 1.500 denars for the tests, while the public sector is billed nearly 5.000 denars for the tests, conducted by a publicly ran laboratory – and the tests are not available to most of the people who need them, preventing the strategy of mass testing as a means to fight the epidemic.
Eventually, Sistina began publishing its results, and put the public sector to shame. As Healthcare Minister Venko Filipce would publish modest numbers of tests conducted by the public sector each day, Sistina would reveal it tested hundreds of people and had dozens of confirmed cases each day, raising the issue of whether the Government is trying to cover up the actual extent of the epidemic.
The Healthcare Ministry responded by denouncing the veracity of the tests conducted by the Sistina clinic, which are admittedly of a different type. Sistina advised all citizens who test positive there to demand a public test done to be on the safe side. Media outlets linked to the ruling SDSM party continued with their never ending attacks on Kamcev, who responded in kind. And today, the Ministry banned Sistina from sharing its results with the public – citing patient confidentiality rules. It also sent healthcare inspectors in the most modern clinic in Skopje, looking for irregularities in their work – a move seen as a clear intimidation tactic.