NEWS AND UPDATES
HEALTH CENTER SMEDEREVSKA PALANKA
Dr. Milan Matejić, newly appointed director of the health center in Smederevska Palanka, contacted SAMA in December 2020. Immediately after his appointment he started knocking on many doors, trying to secure help that is desperately needed for his HC.
We visited HC in Smederevska Palanka on April 19th, 2020, to meet with Dr. Matejić and his staff, assess their needs and see how SAMA can help. The HC is located next to hospital in Smederevska Palanka. The hospital is currently being renovated which was nice to see.
The municipality of Smederevska Palanka has about 45000 people. Like many municipalities in Serbia it was struggling after the communist economy collapsed. Goša, an economic powerhouse in the former Yugoslavia, which was employing more than 8000 people in its heyday, today employs only about 800 people. There were for example problems with water supply, resulting in frequent water restrictions, there was no street lighting until very recently etc. Fortunately there is progress, and there are some new factories that were opened recently.
According to Dr. Matejić, over the years there was very low investment in the HC resulting in the car park that is very, very old and expensive (or even impossible) to maintain, and lack of even the very basic diagnostic equipment. Like many HCs in Serbia, HC in Smederevska Palanka has many regional outposts with at least one (and in the bigger outsposts even 2) doctors assigned to it. Hovewer, some of the bigger ones (e.g. Azanja, Kusadak, Kolonija) are missing even basic 3 channel ECGs.
Then there is no radiologist in either HC or the Hospital, which resulted in all screening programs being stopped. Fortunately there is a doctor from the HC currently doing specialization in radiology which will help in the future. In the mean time, other doctors are trained to do basic diagnostics with an existing ultrasound from 2014. However, this system is lacking many probes, questioning whether it is wise to upgrade the existing one, or procure a new one.
Dr. Matejić and his staff will decide on their priorities and come back to us.
From right: Milan Stojić, head of the legal department, Dr. Milan Matejić, director of the HC, Danijela Petrović, head nurse and Zoran Mladenović, SAMA member
Hospital being renovated. It seems like the external renovation is complete, however, you can gain the full picture only if you see it from inside. However, this time, we were not planning to visit the hospital
GENERAL HOSPITAL PIROT
We visited Hospital in Pirot on April 13th, 2021 and met with Dr. Goran Petrović, urologist and Director of the Hospital and Dr. Marija Milošević-Antić, rheumatologist. It was an opportunity to better understand the situation and the needs of health providers in this part of eastern Serbia.
The Hospital in Pirot covers the region of almost 90000 people spread across pretty large area and covering municipalities of Pirot, Bela Palanka and Dimitrovgrad among others. The hospital itself employs over 120 doctors, and it was built in early 80s. Since then very little was invested in maintenance – very typical for many hospitals in Serbia. Thankfully, Dr. Petrović and his team were able to secure funds to start the first phase of hospital renovation, and the work has already started. They hope that the hospital will be fully renovated over the next 3-5 years.
In the mean time, they still need to provide necessary health care to local population. They are currently woking in the Covid mode, and hope that over the next period they will be able to establish diagnostic center at the hospital. They have equipment for digital mammography and hope that they will get MRI and scanner. They are established program for cervix cancer screening and are starting program for breast cancer screening and colonoscopy.
We discussed how SAMA can help, and focused on two areas to begin:
Help replace mattresses in the hospital, some of them are in very bad shape as can be witnessed from the attached photos
Education: Dr. Petrović was very vocal and supportive of organizing potential seminars at the hospital. They have experience in organizing such seminars, and nice amphitheater that can host it.
We plan to organize fundraising for this project in Q2 or Q3 of 2021 and donate the new mattresses with covers hopefully by the end of Q3 to the hospital.
HEALTH CENTER TRSTENIK
At the beginning of 2021, Jelena Stupar spearheaded a SAMA Project to help Health Center (HC) in her home town Trstenik. After collecting the funds, we contacted Dr. Zaklina Ristic, director of the HC to discuss the needs, and decided to donate 4 new ECGs and defibrillators, as well as a small 24L autoclave. Total value of this donations is about $17k USD.
Trstenik lies in wide, fertile valley of West Morava river surrounded by fields with dark, rich soil ready for spring crop sowing, intertwined with fields of green, young wheat. When we visited in early March 2021, surrounding mountains were capped with snow. The municipality of Trstenik has about 40000 people. This health facility provides residents with basic health and dental care. It employs 50 doctors and 7 dentists, and provides pretty comprehensive primary health care.
Director of the Trstenik HC, Dr Žaklina Ristić, impressed us with her energy, ambition and desire to improve quality of health services and conditions. Together with her staff, she is working tirelessly to modernize necessary medical equipment and improve access to health care to all their patients, both those located in Trstenik township, and those in surrounding villages. Their vision is clearly spelled out and visible in each of the waiting room in Trstenik healthcare center:
“We will be the best health-care center in Serbia, we will provide health services by trained and experienced staff, without waiting, in pleasant atmosphere and with modern technology, and continuously improve patient and staff satisfaction” (see photo bellow).
In addition to the HC facility located in township of Trstenik, Trstenik HC includes 4 small facilities located closer to surrounding villages. Each of these facilities has at least one full time doctor assigned to it. These facilities are very important to remote villagers. In addition to providing more convenient access to preventive health care, their proximity to the remote population may literally mean difference between life and death in emergency situations such as heart attacks, stroke and serious, life threatening injuries. Without these 4 remote health care facilities patients will need to seek emergency help 30 or so kilometers in Trstenik or Kruševac.
That is why it is very important that these remote facilities are equipped with necessary medical equipment, such as ECGs and defibrillators, to be able to provide immediate emergency care, as well as initial patient triaging. During this trip, we visited one of the 4 remote health care facilities in Stopanja village and spoke with two physicians who work there, Dr Zoran Piperac and Dr Ljiljana Ristić. Stopanja local healthcare facility provides healthcare service to more than 15 remote villages. Number of villages supported is similar for other 3 remote health care facilities in Milutovac, Velika Drenova and Medvedja. Today, none of these 4 facilities have any defibrillators, and existing ECGs are more than 15 years old and frequently malfunction or are out of service. Health facility in Stopanja was last time renovated 40-some years ago and signs of wear and tear are clearly visible on outdated equipment and facilities. For example, heating is old and insufficient and signs of roof leakage are visible throughout.
Faced with limited resources, Dr. Ristić is rightfully prioritizing modernization of health care equipment and services over facility improvements.
Later in March, we visited Trstenik HC again and delivered new ECGs and autoclave. Defibrillators are expected to be delivered in June 2021.
PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL KOVIN
Winter clothing donation to families in Kosovo (see news report)
Winter coats and boots were personally delivered to 51 children ahead of the winter months. Please note that this was a private donation from SAMA members, and as it did not fulfill SAMA's mission (medical/health care), no SAMA funds were used.
However, if you’d like to contribute to kuhinje, clothing and many other needs for people in Gracanica in Kosovo, please go to the site Majka Devet Jugovica.
October 3-8, 2020
Visit to Serbia, including Kosovo and metohija
Our tour started in Gračanica, where we met with bishop Teodosije, Dr. Zvonko Starcevic, our trip leader and Protinica Svetlana who leads the humanitarian organization “Majka Devet Jugovića”.
Masks in hand, to be returned immediately after the photo was taken!
2. Goraždevac and Velika Hoča:
In Goraždevac to visit the health center in Peć. Here, we met with Dr. Stanislava Radović and also delivered an ECG, microscope, stethoscopes and blood pressure monitors, which were donated on behalf of SAMA. We also went to Velika Hoča where we met with Dr. Vlada Pavlović, and delivered stethoscopes, blood pressure monitors, and pulse oximeters.
In Kosovsko Pomoravlje, which is home to over 30,000 Serbs, mainly in Gračanica and surrounding areas, but also in numerous enclaves. The hospital in Pasjane is, for the most part, well equipped to meet the needs of their patients. The hospital facility itself is also in relatively good shape. However, they currently do not have an x-ray machine, and patients normally have to travel to have imaging done elsewhere. SAMA would like to work towards procuring a portable x-ray machine for the hospital, which would cost approximately 90,000 euros, and make a huge difference in patient-care.
Visit to Novi Pazar Clinical Center
The Health Center in Novi Pazar has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – Novi Pazar had one of the highest incidences of COVID-19 in Serbia, as well as one of the highest mortality rates. SAMA previously donated two patient monitors and blood transfusion warmer to the hospital, which were delivered prior to our visit.
The hospital is overall in very good shape and does receive substantial government funding. The facilities are relatively modern and the staff is well equipped – as such, we do not think that there is much scope for SAMA to help. However, we are interested in supporting medical education and are brainstorming ways to do this.
September 24, 2020
SAMA Annual Tennis Open
Dear SAMA friends,
We hope you are all doing well and staying healthy.
Normally at this time of year, we would be dusting off our tennis rackets and gearing up for SAMA's annual Tennis Open. However this year, with consideration of your health and safety, we regret to announce that we have decided to cancel the event.
We hope you still find some time to practice! - depending on the circumstances, we may postpone the event until Spring next year.
Thank you for your understanding.
We hope to see you soon!
August 1, 2020
8th ANNUAL SAMA WALK
SAMA held its 8th annual walk, following appropriate mask and social distancing requirements. We are grateful to the ones who could come and show their support personally. We are also thank full to the many who could not come but sent a donation instead. All together, we raised about $7,000!!!
At this moment, there is a little more than $30,000 on our account. We have signed agreements with the directors of health centers in Pec-Gorazdevac and Velika Hoca in Kosovo-Metohija where the most basic material and medicine are badly needed. With the funds available, we are also hoping to help the infectious disease clinic in Belgrade, which despite very vetuste building infrastructure continues to play the central role in the treatment of patients with infectious disorders throughout the region.
We wish to thank all of you who have donated for your generous suoport and hope to be able to count on you in the future.
In good health,
July 10, 2020
Dear friends of SAMA,
As you know, many parts of Serbia have been experiencing a rapid uptick in COVID-19 cases and deaths after lockdown restrictions were lifted last month. We have been in touch with several health center directors with whom we have worked on projects in the past about the current state of affairs in their hospitals. While the patient volume has been increasing significantly, there appears to be no immediate shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) or ventilators. However, as this trend in patient volume continues, shortages might become a problem in the near future.
While SAMA activities have been mostly suspended for the year, we feel compelled at this time to support the efforts of healthcare providers in Serbia who risk their lives daily in service of our Serbian brothers and sisters. As such, SAMA is raising funds for health centers throughout Serbia, in anticipation of future demand for PPE.
If you are interested in contributing towards our fundraising efforts, or if you would like to learn more about how these funds will be used, please follow this link.
Lastly, we recognize the financial hardships brought on by the pandemic. If you are unable to donate, please support our campaign by sharing this link or email with others in your community.
We thank you for your support and hope to see you soon.
In good health,
July 01, 2020
At the request of Dr. Mithat Music, surgeon at the Novi Pazar Health Center, SAMA purchased EKG, pulse oximeters and patient monitors worth a total of $9,983.07. All these have been purchased and are ready for delivery.
We wish for our friends and compatriots from Novi Pazar to stay safe and healthy, and we are looking forward to meet them in September during our trip thru Serbia.
Thank you to all of you who with your generosity have helped all the citizens of Serbia during these hard times.
June 20, 2020
Due to the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Serbian American Medical Association's activities have been very limited.
SAMA is closely following the developments in Serbia and we are in regular contact with physicians with whom we have been sharing experiences and available data.
We realize that SAMA can only have a relatively small impact on the situation, especially considering that Serbia is already been helped by several governments (Serbia, China, EU, Russia) and has received millions of dollars worth of donations from individuals. It is important to know that according to official government statements there appears to be sufficient supplies of equipment and material such as respirators and PPE.
We expect that when this epidemic passes there will be more systematic investment in the Serbian health infrastructure. The main hospital in charge of fighting this epidemic (Clinic for Infectious Diseases in Belgrade) is in horrible shape (see pictures SAMA took during a visit in 2018 and the following link) and promises made by the Serbian government have been made that construction of new buildings was imminent. Dr. Stevanovic, director of the clinic, was doubtful that this would happen and asked for help in reconstructing few patient rooms.
We do plan to go and visit Serbia as soon as the situation allows. We have few projects in preparation including help to Serbian enclaves in Kosovo, as well as the above mentioned project for the Infectious Clinic.
As always, we are hopeful that together we can continue to support the people in Serbia and the Balkans. We are greatly thankful for all your help.