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Source: Hong Kong Information Services

Forty-year-old Dr Jacky Chan has been working at the Infectious Disease Centre at Princess Margaret Hospital for 15 years. As a seasoned clinician, he has dealt with various infectious diseases including human swine flu, avian flu and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

Past experience like this has helped to prepare him and his colleagues to tackle the virus as part of the “wet” team – medical workers on the COVID-19 frontline.

“I still remember on the first day of my COVID-19 work – it was the first day of the Lunar New Year – and we had to enter the patient ward in order to see patients after donning protective clothing. We have to set the heparin lock to conduct blood-taking and also do electrocardiograms for patients. I was a little nervous at that time,” Dr Chan said.

Apart from the infectious disease team, colleagues from the respiratory, gastroenterology, renal and geriatric teams, along with basic trainees, all volunteered to save as many lives as possible by joining the “wet” team.

Breakthrough treatment

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the IDC adopted an antiviral drug combination to help patients recover more quickly.

The regimen includes interferon to help the body’s immune system fight infection, protease inhibitors widely used to treat HIV, and ribavirin. Some patients were also recruited to partake in a clinical trial to evaluate the new antiviral drug remdesivir.

Healthcare staff expressed great satisfaction seeing so many patients recover after receiving the drug therapy.

“There was a couple. The wife actually deteriorated after several days of admission and needed to be transferred to the intensive care unit. But after we gave the patient appropriate treatment, the wife luckily improved and was sent back to the general ward and reunited with her husband.

“Every day that I saw them, they would wave from their isolation room window, smiling very cheerfully. From that experience I feel satisfaction seeing a patient go from a severe phase to the recovery phase. And now they are staying happily together in the same room and waiting to be discharged. So that is one of the wonderful moments during this outbreak,” recalled Dr Chan.

Family support

Princess Margaret Hospital Infectious Disease Centre Registered Nurse Au Tsz-hin has also been working on the frontline during the pandemic. While the 31-year-old is particularly concerned about the risk of carrying the virus home and infecting his loved ones, he is grateful for their unwavering support.

“They said nothing about my work, but just asked me ‘You come to dine with us frequently’. And then I realised that they always save the chicken legs for me. In Hong Kong culture, if your family gives you a chicken leg, it means they appreciate you. So even if they say nothing, I know they are really proud of me and appreciate me. So I would like to give special thanks to my family members.”

Minimising infection

Healthcare workers on the frontline have been taking care of patients day and night. This is why the installation of an intercom system greatly helps as it minimises direct contact and helps reduce the risk of infection.

“We have recently installed an intercom system to have a speaker outside the isolation room and then one put inside the anteroom for gowning or de-gowning of personal protective equipment.

“Because of these intercoms, we can ask a senior staff member standing outside the corridor to remind the junior staff inside the anteroom to make sure that the gowning and de-gowning procedures are being done appropriately to reduce the risk of transmission,” Dr Chan explained.

Cautious community

To win the COVID-19 battle, Hong Kong needs everyone to continue to do their part by practising social distancing and good personal hygiene.

Those on the COVID-19 frontline expressed their gratitude to every individual who refuses to allow the sacrifices of healthcare workers and others fighting to keep the city virus-free to be in vain.

“All Hong Kong citizens carry masks with them and every one of them carries alcohol handrub. I would like to give thanks to Hong Kong people. Since you are so self-disciplined, your efforts have prevented the pandemic from worsening,” added Mr Au.

MIL OSI Asia Pacific News