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Election in Hungary tightens prime minister’s hold on power

Prime Minister Viktor Orban continued his steady consolidation of power in Hungary in local and municipal elections on Sunday with his governing Fidesz party winning control of all county assemblies and all but one of the largest cities, including the capital, Budapest.

A coalition of left-leaning and socialist parties won in the fourth-largest city, Szeged, near the Serbian border.

Despite some indications of growing support for Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, it dominated only in a handful of small, rural municipalities.

The victory was the third straight triumph for Orban’s right-wing party.

In April, he was returned to office following parliamentary elections in which Fidesz, for the second time, won a two-thirds majority, giving it the power to alter the Constitution.

And then in May, the party decisively won in voting for the European Parliament.

“Three is the Hungarian truth, and today we got the third, our third victory,” Orban said in a brief victory speech Sunday night.

Here he was referring, as he often does, to a Hungarian folk saying, in this case a maxim taken from the Latin “omne trium perfectum,” which means “everything that comes in threes is perfect.”

“Hungary is a powerful country because at each vote, it managed to present a unity that is rare in Europe,” the prime minister said, vowing to “make Hungary great in the next four years.”

Orban faces no more elections until 2018, barring unforeseen events, and he is expected to use his political dominance to advance his conservative agenda.

“In my opinion, three major victories give them a consistent legitimacy, as it would anywhere in the world,” said Julia Lakatos of the Center for Fair Political Analysis, an independent research group, in a phone interview from Budapest.

Orban, whose increasingly authoritarian rule has worried many Western leaders, drew criticism over the summer for a speech in which he declared his support for “illiberal democracy,” pointing to the economic success of authoritarian states in China, Russia, Singapore and Turkey.

Party officials later said that this did not mean that Hungary intended to abandon democracy, but that it wanted to stem the kind of “cowboy capitalism” that led to the financial collapse in 2008.

The leftist coalition did poorly in Sunday’s voting, in part, because it had grown increasingly fragmented.

Jobbik, which has tried in recent months to soften its image, did as well as the leftists in many large cities and beat them in some.

“They have become, symbolically, the second force behind Fidesz,” Lakatos said. “But they could not get near Fidesz.”

—Rick Lyman, The New York Times

Errors on Ebola raise concern: how prepared are hospitals?

Federal health officials have offered repeated assurances that most U.S. hospitals can safely treat Ebola, but Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, which had years of preparation for just such a crisis, found out how hard that is while it cared for three Ebola patients.

As doctors and nurses there worked to keep desperately ill patients alive, the county threatened to disconnect Emory from the sewer lines if Ebola wastes went down the drain.

The company that hauled medical trash to the incinerator refused to take anything used on an Ebola patient unless it was sterilized first. Couriers would not drive the patients’ blood samples a few blocks away for testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And pizza places would not even deliver to staff members in any part of the hospital.

“It doesn’t matter how much you plan,” Dr. Bruce Ribner, an infectious disease specialist who directed the patients’ care, said in an interview. “You’re going to be wrong half the time.

Emory solved its problems, but the challenges it faced could overwhelm a hospital with fewer resources.

Multiple mistakes at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas in treating a patient from Liberia — a delay in diagnosing the disease, and its spread to a health worker who had apparently taken all precautions — have raised questions about the general level of preparedness in hospitals around the country.

Medical experts have begun to suggest that it might be better to transfer patients to designated centers with special expertise in treating Ebola.

Federal health officials are also beginning to consider that idea, though they emphasize that every hospital has to be able to diagnose the disease.

During a news conference this month, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said: “Essentially, any hospital in the country can safely take care of Ebola. You need a private room with a private bathroom, and rigorous, meticulous training and materials to make sure that care is done safely so caregivers aren’t at risk.”

But on Sunday, after it was confirmed that a nurse in Dallas had been infected with Ebola, Frieden said his agency would consider whether patients should be transferred to specialty centers.

“We’re looking at different options for what will be the safest way to care for patients,” he said in an interview on Monday. But he declined to explain what those options were.

The nation has four hospitals with special biocontainment units to isolate patients with dangerous infectious diseases: in Bethesda, Maryland; Missoula, Montana; and Omaha, Nebraska, as well as Emory.

But other large hospitals around the country could also handle Ebola patients, Ribner said.

“I think the larger regional hospitals are where the care of these patients is going to have to be focused,” Ribner said, adding that there is a long tradition in medicine of transferring critically ill patients from smaller hospitals to larger ones better equipped to care for them.

—Denise Grady, The New York Times