Medics are not complaining we can be proud on what we are doing

In the time when we were hit by the corona crisis and most of us were thinking about problems like how to adjust to working from home or how to stay employed, the doctors were facing the question of how to manage the never-ending work. Many of them say that despite the seriousness of the situation, the crisis showed us the sense of belonging and team spirit of the medics. Doctors were joined by the students of medicine, for whom joining the fight against the epidemic was more of a natural reaction than duty. They have been working as volunteers on two info lines since the beginning – the National health information center (NCZI) and Regional public health authorities of the Slovak Republic. They are also helping directly with treating potential COVID-19 patients in hospitals. Ivan Fuljer, student of the Faculty of Medicine of CU, is one of them. He has been working in a hospital in Bojnice for four weeks, taking samples from patients.

11. 05. 2020 09.11 hod.
By: CU Public Relations Office

You are working in a so-called filter, what does it mean? Where are filters located in Slovakia?

Filter is a sorting facility. Our job is to find out who is tested positive for COVID-19 from samples taken from potential patients. When we have the result, the patients are contacted by Regional public health authority that informs them whether they are negative or positive and how they should proceed. We have a varied combination of state and private testing facilities. These places are still being updated, so that we wouldn’t have to bother the patients with far distance journeys to hospitals.

Who comes to get tested?

People who are potentially positive for COVID-19. If they are immobile, we go to them in an ambulance, for example to seniors’ homes. It is necessary to book taking samples in advance via a form at (administered by the National health information center). Patients have to come with an empty stomach, without a previous use of gargles, toothpaste, or any other means of disinfection of the oral cavity. If they are thirsty, drinking of not cooled still water is allowed. They should not smoke before the swab. It is necessary to come to the taking of samples in one’s own vehicle. Test for COVID-19 and quarantine is obligatory for everyone in the vehicle.

How does testing of potential COVID-19 patients take place in the filters?

It is recommended to blow one’s nose and cough before the taking of the sample. Samples from the nose and throat are taken by a swab. We put these into a special taking kit that includes a test tube with the full name of the patient. These are put into a marked sealable bag. The samples are then put into a cooling device and after the shift sent to a PCR machine testing in Trenčín. That’s how it works in the hospital in Bojnice where I work.

How did you get this job?

I started working in a call center of the NCZI. I saw how the situation was worsening so I decided to dedicate my energy to this sort of help. Credit also has to be attributed to the management of the Faculty of Medicine led by the Dean Juraj Šteňo. Their first concern was our safety, which was very motivating for me. The school supported the help of medics in the fight against COVID-19 and agreed that we can help at various places, under the condition that we would all be well protected. It was up to the students whether they sign up for a workplace that needs them, asks for their help or they agree on helping a specific hospital.

How many medics work in a filter?

In our filter there are 2 people taking samples from the patients that arrive and two other drive in the ambulance.

On average, how many people are you able to test in one day?

There are days when we test ten patients in an hour. Other days there may be a positive patient that was located at a department and apart from the pre-booked tests we test also the whole department. That’s how the number can rise up to 30 – 40 patients per hour. It’s natural that in these cases we don’t stop working for several hours. We must follow the safety procedures and so we sometimes take longer shifts until we do everything necessary. Students of medicine also work at places that have a 24-hour working time. That means that they change in 12-hour long shifts. It is quite demanding, but we chose a work where it is necessary. I think that we can be proud of what we are doing. As the saying goes: we cannot help everyone, but everyone can help someone.

What safety measures are taken at a workplace like this?

Our safety is in the first place, then the safety of people who come to be tested. There are very strict criteria. We have protective shoes, a special Tyvek suit that covers all of our bodies, protective glasses, respirator, face mask, protective shield or a mask, more layers of gloves that we regularly change and many disinfectants. After the shift the workers of the civil protection disinfect us and then we go to have a shower. Clothes that we wear under the protective suit are put into a bag and need to be washed at a high temperature after every shift. Our working environment is sterilized after the end of the shift and germicidal lamps are put there for a few hours. I’m really satisfied with the safety measures.

What sort of a test are you doing and what happens with the samples?

It is a real time PCR method with reverse transcription that is used worldwide. The test is aimed on presence of the ribonucleic acid (RNA) of the virus, while it searches for SARS-CoV-2 genes, the virus that caused the pandemic. This test is recommended by the Public Health Authority of the Slovak Republic and WHO.

How do the patients cope with the test? 

Patients may have various extents of patience. Some of them manage this unpleasant test fine, others don’t hesitate to verbally relieve themselves. It makes everyone’s eyes water. Even though there are many patients and the work is tiring, there is always a funny story that brings us back onto our feet. Like when we are about to test a small child and they think we are going to feed them. It always motivates me when someone honestly says “Thank you”. That’s all you need. In that situation one sees that it was honest.