DAEGU, South Korea – “As police have their duty, a hospital has its duty, I thought. Everyone was so overwhelmed at first. We felt like we were in a war zone.”
Huh Dong-myung, medical director of Daegu Fatima Hospital, recalled one day in last month when the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases suddenly shot up in Daegu.
At the time, hospitals in Daegu and the neighboring region were packed with confirmed and suspected patients, and four university hospitals had to shut down emergency rooms (ER) temporarily.
However, Daegu Fatima Hospital was able to keep its ER free from the virus and receive urgent patients.
|Daegu Fatima Hospital has been designated to take care of pregnant women infected with the new coronavirus.|
The hospital is neither a first-grade nor a university hospital but was fulfilling its duty as a government-designated hospital to treat COVID-19 patients in Daegu, the so-called Wuhan of Korea.
“Although university hospitals around us have closed ERs, we still opened ours because urgent patients in Daegu had nowhere to go. When patients scrambled to come here, we had five or six ambulances arriving at the hospital simultaneously,” Hur said. “Fortunately, our hospital set up a pulmonary examination room to separate moving routes of suspected COVID-19 patients from those of general patients, right after the first confirmed case of Daegu. So, we could prevent the spread of the virus within the hospital.”
Immediately after Daegu reported the first confirmed case, Daegu Fatima Hospital took aggressive actions to brace for a worsening of the outbreak. The hospital volunteered to treat pregnant women infected with COVID-19 who had symptoms such as fever but found no clinic accepting them.
The hospital asked for an understanding of existing soon-to-be mothers to empty the ward and moved suspected COVID-19 mothers to the ward to help their labor. Doctors and nurses had to wear Level-D protective clothing while performing a Caesarean section, which was more difficult and dangerous than usual. A confirmed mother also gave birth here.
“While small clinics don’t have the capacity to take care of COVID-19 suspected mothers, many pregnant women became worried. I thought somebody had to do this job, so we started to take them,” Huh said.
Six women were near the delivery but suspected of COVID-19. As they couldn’t go to a general clinic, this hospital did C-section for them. One of them, who tested positive for the virus, gave birth to a baby, who tested negative and was healthy, he added.
Daegu Fatima Hospital was treating 38 confirmed patients, including mothers and those with severe symptoms.
In the initial stage, the hospital suffered shortages of medical supplies and human resources because it had to maintain outpatient services, run the pulmonary consultation room and an isolated examination room, and treat severe COVID-19 patients at the same time.
|Huh Dong-myung, medical director of Daegu Fatima Hospital, speaks during an interview with Korea Biomedical Review.|
Fortunately, 11 public health doctors came to help on Monday. The quick dispatch of public health doctors was possible because hospitals had been actively communicating via the Medicity Daegu Council.
Huh said the hospital has been able to endure the hardship because all of the hospital workers were helping to treat COVID-19 patients.
However, infectious disease and pulmonary specialists must be suffering from accumulated fatigue after three weeks of fighting the disease, he said. The dispatch of 11 public health doctors to the hospital gave them a moment of rest during the day.
“Recently, I can notice that new confirmed cases are showing signs of reduction. We also collaborate with other hospitals, working in harmony,” Huh said.
As a private hospital heada, Huh said he could not help but worry about potential losses induced by the prolonged COVID-19 outbreak. However, there was no other option but to end the infectious disease as soon as possible, he said.
“It is the hospital’s duty. Every hospital is doing its best. So, this is natural,” he said.
Huh thanked existing patients for understanding the situation and helping the hospital to fight against COVID-19.
“Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we had to delay outpatient services except for urgent surgeries for a long time. As general patients understood this situation and became patient, Daegu was able to stabilize in a short time,” he said.
It is essential to maintain excellent outpatient and emergency care so that other critical patients can get treatment despite COVID-19, he added.
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