Too many doctors, too few patients in Kosovo's only Serb hospital

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Aug 7, 2000 -- (AFP) Wards lie empty and nurses leave an hour before the end of their shifts in the only hospital in Kosovo that will treat Serbs.

"We've got far more doctors than we need in this public hospital. We've had to take on internally displaced people because of pressure from Belgrade who are desperate to keep Serbs in Kosovo," explains Doctor Mirlan Ivanovic, deputy director of Mitrovica Hospital.

"We've got to take them on even if we don't need them," admits Cveta Jaksic, head of nursing, who is no longer even frustrated by the sight of nurses knocking off for the weekend at Friday lunchtime.

The number of patients has dropped by half in the last year, while numbers of hospital staff have risen by a third.

Doctor Ivanovic says that from 700 staff before Kosovo's 1998-1999 civil war, there are now a thousand doctors, nurses, care assistants and technicians working in the hospital where half the beds remain unoccupied.

The corridors are deserted, many of the wards lie empty, and in the waiting-rooms the nurses lounge around for up to an hour at a time smoking and drinking endless cups of Turkish coffee, quietly despairing of the hospital's hygiene, where, they say not a single day goes by without a power cut or the water being cut off.

"More than 100,000 workers in the health sector have been driven out of Kosovo," says Ivanovic, seated in his office beneath a portrait of the Yugoslav Republic's President Slobodan Milosevic. Next to the portrait is pinned up a copy of the Hippocratic Oath in Serbian.

Between June and September 1999, in an effort to keep Serbs in Kosovo, Milosevic prevented Serb medical personnel from Kosovo from being employed in the rest of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

"For the first few months, we were basically on forced holiday," explains Sinisa Milic, a 33-year-old female anesthetist, who a year ago had to leave the Kosovan capital, Pristina, for Nis, in Serbia.

"I fled to Serbia after the war but I just couldn't find work because of the regulations being laid down by Belgrade," adds Doctor Srdjan Ivkovic, 36, who before the war worked in Kosovo at the spa in the town of Glogovac.

"I can't complain," he says, "I earn twice what my colleagues in Serbia earn, about 6,000 dinars (541 dollars)."

"By keeping the Serbs in Mitrovica, we're hoping to get them back to Pristina as soon as possible," says Radoslav Orlovic, who's been director of the hospital for 12 years.

"Everybody here is living for the day when they can be citizens of Pristina again," echoes Tanja Popovic, formerly a doctor in Pristina.

"Pristina is a little bit like Jerusalem for the Israelis," she says.

Original article