30 May 2020, Saturday, 11:50
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Vitsebsk Medical Professional: Italian Scenario May Occur in Belarus

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Vitsebsk Medical Professional: Italian Scenario May Occur in Belarus

A shocking story of Vitsebsk doctor about the situation in the region.

A doctor of one of Vitsebsk hospitals tells a shocking story about the situation in the city during the coronavirus pandemic. The Vitsebsk city executive committee approved the action plan in emergencies. It provides for additional measures to prevent and reduce the spread of coronavirus and other respiratory infections.

The interlocutor asked to remain anonymous, but the editorial office of Radio Svaboda knows her name and her place of work.

"It all started when the shoe factory workers went to Milan. They came back already contracted coronavirus. There were no quarantine activities. They went to work, shops, their children went to school. Unfortunately, it spread more widely in Vitsebsk than in other cities. I don't take Minsk into account. It has more population there.

Four hospitals in the city were re-equipped to treat pneumonia: TB clinic, STD clinic, the 1st city hospital and the former railway hospital. They are all filled with patients with pneumonia.

The Infectious Disease Hospital is available for Level 1 contacts. They didn't accept any other patients. They didn't treat patients with an intestinal infection - neither adults nor children. This intestinal infection spread instead of being isolated in one place. Children went to the children's hospital and adults went to the former railway hospital.

There was a period in the railway hospital when they were quarantined because of E. coli, as this hospital was not designed for such patients. Generally speaking, there is a shared toilet at the end of the corridor, which is not acceptable with intestinal infections. One nurse for the whole ward. They just couldn't handle everything no matter how hard they tried.

The TB clinic treats only pneumonia cases, but there is no intensive care unit and no equipment (artificial ventilation).

Personal protective gear is not enough either. Lukashenka says that our warehouses are packed, but hospitals lack it. Our ICU received 500 masks when the epidemic began and they said they would not give us any more. We have 20 doctors and three times as many nurses. They do not care.

We need to change this mask every 3 hours, and we wear it for a week. They tell us to sew a cotton mask if we miss them. People are just tired and they don't have the strength to fight anymore. We don't care about anyone.

The STD clinic treats only pneumonia, but it's scary because there's no oxygen distribution. If it is still possible to provide oxygen to the patient in case of TB, but they cannot even get such help in the STD clinic. If they get worse, they'll be transferred somewhere. Transportation doesn't contribute to the health of these people.

Pneumonia cases are trouble in Vitebsk. It's at least 2-3 times higher than usual. I remember the epidemic of 2009 when we had A/H1N1. It was different because we had 4 hospitals closed from pneumonia. So every ICU was somehow handling it. It's the first time when all clinics are not available.

I don't want to be Nostradamus, but we can follow the Italian scenario because many patients are taken at the same time. And these are people who already need help - they have unilateral or bilateral pneumonia. They need antibiotics, preventive therapy, and they can't cope with it at home.

On Friday, there were five positive cases for coronavirus in the hospital. Emergency physicians work to the max. The ICU used to have six beds, now it's spread all over the floor. The OR is closed. Some patients need ventilation and oxygen. All planned surgeries have been cancelled.

The children's hospital has four units for pneumonia. One can't say kids don't get sick, but they have a mild form. There are no children on ventilation in the children's room. But they are sick, they are carriers. It is disastrous that kindergartens and schools are open.

At present, the railway hospital does not accept patients, and the medical emergency hospital is being re-profiled. Its therapeutic building will be for pneumonia. The only hospital that can provide emergency care for surgical, cardio - neuropathic patients is the regional hospital. There are 1,500 beds. I don't know how these poor doctors will survive.

The morbidity figures are at least twice as high as the HM (Health Ministry) says. I understand doctors: about 60 patients come to the hospital ER a day. They do not even have time to swab. Knowing how our system works, I'm not sure that anyone does anything with swabs we take.

We are forced to rewrite medical records. We know how test data disappears. We'll never have real data.

High officials claim that we have nothing and all this is psychosis. Unfortunately, it is not. The situation is bad for now.

Vitsebsk region is open to everyone except the military and police. The enforces and the military are not allowed to go to our region. As far as I understand, nobody needs the rest of the population. It's supposed to be a quarantine event. However, I don't believe in it.

The staff is sick as well. There are a lot of with a slight cold, and there's pneumonia. Our nurse has bilateral pneumonia. No one swabbed her. At another hospital, an emergency physician and a nurse probably got it from their patients. We're just not used to complaining. One can have a bleeding nose, but they come to work anyway. A lot of people have these classic symptoms, but we just go to work because there's not that many of us. Let's take the instructions from the local health department - every health care employee has to measure temperature and record it before he or she starts to work. We don't measure it; we just write 36.6 and go to work, because we know that the temperature will be higher. We keep working because we have no other option.

Now we have to inform the population how to wash their hands properly, use dispensers with sanitizers. Do not go to the malls to buy a new pair of tights or beads. If you need bread, go get it and go home. Sitting at home means to us to give the children to grandparents, gather 20 people and go to a barbeque. One can't do this now.

One need to provide data on the number of patients. We have to provide statistics like the rest of the world does.

I think there are dead patients, and they're not always old. In the ICU people die of pneumonia, but we are not always allowed to diagnose pneumonia. At the administrative level, they say, "Encrypt it not to spoil the statistics."

If the health workers had the benefit from the state, we would be telling the truth. But the state doesn't care about us, we don't care as well. Although one tells about a tractor, sauna and everything else from the podium, we will not have any good quarantine measures. To introduce a quarantine means to sign a decree. And all our superiors are afraid because they will be punished for it later anyway.