On July 15, the Minister for European Integration, Jadranka Joksimovic, and the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia, Sem Fabrizi, signed an agreement on hiring 200 health workers who would help to fight the COVID-19 epidemic thanks to EU funds. The agreement stipulates the funding for the employment of up to 200 additional health workers to increase Serbia's capacity to fight COVID-19. These workers would be hired for a period of six months, and the funds that the EU has determined for that amount to approximately €1 million. The agreement aims to increase the capacity of the national health system to better respond to the long-running crisis.
The available health workforce was sufficient to manage the response to COVID-19 in accordance with “Plan A” (a scenario with up to 1000 cases). Usually, in this kind of situation, the involvement of retired professionals is always taken into account, but now it is not an option due to their special vulnerability and the fact they are prohibited from moving outside their homes. As an exemption from this provision, the Ministry of Defence has mobilised and activated a few dozens of retired military medical doctors. Most of them are under 65 years of age, but those who are above are provided with a special permit to work. A considerable number of medical students is engaged in communication with the population, mainly serving the hotlines dedicated to COVID-19.
The Minister of Health stated that 4,500 health workers were employed during the state of emergency period, including 1,500 doctors (https://www.zdravlje.gov.rs/vest/347471/u-junu-posao-za-jos-stotinak-najboljih-diplomca-medicine.php). In addition, military medical staff have been repurposed and assigned to support the civil health system. The government also agreed to hire 75 new doctors and 200 nurses in Kosovo-Metohija.
Newly employed staff is being trained on basic aspects of coping with the COVID-19 outbreak, including doffing and donning PPE, using contact tracing tools, etc. Individual roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and delineated. Psychosocial support for health workers could be strengthened.
The NGO “The Point of Return” programme, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Serbian diplomatic missions, and with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), invited Serbian medical workers working or staying abroad to report their availability to temporarily return to the country and help with the COVID-19 epidemic in Serbia (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfFqQOEkBm_3c_hHnvpa303Uop20XbirJJnj5PaNI24CX4Alg/viewform). More than 300 have applied to return and by 30 March, 24 had already arrived from Germany.