Accessibility links

Breaking News

Coronavirus Crisis Unites Doctors In Bosnia's Divided City Of Mostar


The Cantonal Hospital on the eastern side of Mostar. The city registered its first coronavirus infection on March 17.

MOSTAR, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- When doctors learned last month that a woman admitted for childbirth to this city's largest hospital was infected with COVID-19, they acted quickly.

The expectant mother, who had been in contact with the city's first coronavirus patient, was moved from western Mostar's University Clinical Hospital (SKB) to its Cantonal Hospital on the eastern side of the city.

In fact, the labor ward's entire operations and all its patients were moved there, too, for two days as the University Clinical Hospital was sanitized.

“It's normal to have met our colleagues’ needs. We took over their pregnancies and labor patients for a few days, until their labor ward was disinfected and their OB-GYN clinic's work was restored," Zlatko Guzin, general manager of the Cantonal Hospital, told RFE/RL's Balkan Service. "It's completely normal, and I think our colleagues are very much aware of that."

Live Map: The Spread Of The Coronavirus

Updated constantly with the latest figures

Their colleagues at the University Clinical Hospital would have done the same, he added.

The disruption followed the confirmation of the city's first coronavirus infection earlier in the week and the cooperation between the hospitals could have occurred in almost any city in the current pandemic.

But this is Mostar, a city divided by war in the early 1990s in nearly every respect between mostly Catholic Bosnian Croats in its west and mainly Muslim Bosniaks in its east.

Twin facilities have mostly served their respective ethnically homogeneous communities on both sides ever since, although the doctors cooperate through a joint medical chamber.

Bosnia had nearly 950 confirmed COVID-19 cases by April 12, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center. Thirty-seven of them have died.

The first case in Mostar, a city of around 115,000, was announced on March 17.

The infectious-diseases wing of Mostar's University Clinical Hospital has been transformed into a COVID-19 facility staffed by doctors and other experts from both hospitals in the city.
The infectious-diseases wing of Mostar's University Clinical Hospital has been transformed into a COVID-19 facility staffed by doctors and other experts from both hospitals in the city.

Health officials here say the divided city has adopted a "new dimension" of cooperation ever since.

When it comes to working closely together and joining forces in the current pandemic, they say patients are the priority, not politics.

“We're really showing that, in the current situation, everything must be done for the patients, irrespective of whose hospital it is," said Ante Kvesic, general manager of the University Clinical Hospital. "We're doing everything we can."

RFE/RL's Coronavirus Crisis Archive

Features and analysis, videos, and infographics explore how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the countries in our broadcast area.

His hospital's infectious-diseases wing has been transformed into a COVID-19 facility staffed by doctors and other experts from both hospitals in the city, Bosnia's fifth-largest.

Two out of three of the Cantonal Hospital's infectious-diseases doctors are now working jointly there with their colleagues from the University Clinical Hospital to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

“In fighting this pandemic, we've joined our forces, our doctors, in the sense of joint, day-to-day work to give each other a hand wherever possible, wherever needed," said Guzin, "because I think this is a situation in which we can only fight this huge and dangerous challenge if we join our forces."

Before the 1992-95 war, a Regional Health Center named after a Bosniak communist partisan during World War II provided health care to the entire Herzegovina region of what's now southern Bosnia.

That regional facility was broken up after the conflict, with its work restored in former Yugoslav Army barracks on the eastern side of the city and later renamed the Cantonal Hospital.

The move made the University Clinical Hospital the city's biggest.

University Clinical Hospital is Mostar's biggest.
University Clinical Hospital is Mostar's biggest.

Guzin said the staff of both hospitals collaborated before the coronavirus pandemic through a shared doctors' union and another professional association.

“The reason we're talking about it now is because the world outside of our hospitals is seeing [the cooperation] for the first time," Kvesic said.

Asked about ongoing increased cooperation after the current pandemic, Kvesic suggested that things would likely go back to the way they were.

“That's not a question for us health workers. We're not the ones making decisions," he said.

XS
SM
MD
LG