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[Feature] Public health doctors sent to Daegu struggle with coronavirus [Warriors Fighting COVID-19 ②] ‘Frequent changes in work manuals cause confusion’  
  • By Choi Gwang-seok
  • Published 2020.02.25 14:38
  • Updated 2020.02.25 14:38
  • comments 0

The outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in Korea began after a Chinese woman from Wuhan, China, who entered the country on Jan. 20, was confirmed with the infection. The epidemic is still ongoing over a month. Over 10 patients were completely cured and discharged. Still, the nation faced a new phase of the outbreak as the Shincheonji Church in Daegu, where the 31st confirmed patient went and Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo became the hotbed of the COVID-19 spread in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province. The Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province region, where new confirmed cases surged, is suffering a shortage of healthcare workers. The health authorities started to dispatch army doctors, nurses, and public health doctors to the region. They need more than ever to prepare for the long-term battle against the coronavirus epidemic. Korea Biomedical Review has met with healthcare workers fighting COVID-19 to hear how to overcome the new infectious disease. – Ed.

A public health doctor working in South Jeolla Province, who wished to be unnamed, said he heard on Friday that the public health center was looking for doctors to join the second team to work in the southeastern city of Daegu where new coronavirus (COVID-19) infections spiked.

The team was supposed to leave on the next day morning, just one day after local governments sent a notification to public health centers to dispatch two public health doctors to Daegu.

The doctor decided to volunteer for the dispatched team, told his families about it, and went to Daegu on Saturday.

He said more than 120 public health doctors were sent to Daegu. The dispatch was made in three phases – around 20 doctors in the first on Friday, 70 in the second on Saturday, and 30 in the third on Monday. Most of the public health doctors were sent to public health centers in Daegu to take samples from patients complaining of cold symptoms at isolated examination rooms.

Public health doctors in Daegu also have to visit people in quarantine at home or those who contacted confirmed patients from the Shincheonji Church to take their samples for COVID-19 testing. They also examined suspected patients who did not contact confirmed patients or members of the Shincheonji Church and their families at medical institutions.

The problem is that public health doctors should wear full protective clothing to take samples for testing, which creates a great deal of fatigue in a short time.

With a makeshift dispatch of public health doctors, public health centers have not been able to prepare for complete work manuals. As the manuals kept updated and changed, along with the rising number of new confirmed cases, public health doctors were uncertain about the criteria whom to choose for COVID-19 testing.

Every public health center had different work hours, but most of the public health doctors were working overtime. Some centers had doctors work in two shifts for 24 hours.

Public health doctors have meals on their own, and many of them have lunchboxes or sandwiches supported by the public health center or the Daegu Metropolitan City.

A public health doctor in Daegu gets a daily allowance of 145,000 won ($119.5), which includes work incentives, daily expenses, meals, and accommodation costs.

The doctor, who went to Daegu from South Jeolla Province, said he felt sorry for his family, who worried about him very much.

“When I said to my family that I was sent to Daegu, they said why I had to go. They’re still worried, but I assure them by keeping them posted regularly,” the public health doctor said.

He thanked the medical community for helping and supporting public health doctors.

He said not all public health doctors wanted to come to Daegu voluntarily. Still, he was grateful that the Korean Medical Association and regional medical associations, as well as the government, helped them. “Their support will greatly help dispatched public health doctors,” he said.

“There are many uncomfortable things, but we’re in a helpless situation. So, I’m just working considering the situation,” the doctor added. “I will do my best. I hope all the other dispatched public health doctors could go back to their original places without an incident.”


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