Francesco Galvani, Medical Equipments Application Engineer, servicing hospitals in north Italy, tells his experience and feelings during the pandemic.
– We are at your service. During the current healthcare crisis our technicians are working on the front lines alongside healthcare professionals to make sure patients can be diagnosed and treated. These are their stories. This series will be updated weekly. –
We are in the field every day, in contact with operators and often with patients. We are completely aware of being at risk of infection, something we think about every time we go to a hospital to carry out our tasks. Sometimes, though it is rare, we hear of a possible case of Meningitis or THX, or another disease.
Today’s risk is COVID-19. Right now, COVID-19 is the biggest threat to us all, and we face the possibility of being infected, even if not by direct contact, daily.
Of course, we follow relevant safety procedures, such as wearing masks, gloves and gowns, but only now have these “normal” procedures become fundamental. We are more careful when following these procedures in order to protect ourselves and our safety.
In some situations, such as in Alessandria where the hospital has been entirely dedicated to the Coronavirus emergency, it is easier to implement safety and security measures. The main entrance is closed; the hospital is accessible only through a secondary door. There, they asked me to identify myself. I was on the approved entry list, yet they continued to test my temperature and, as an additional measure, there was someone waiting to “escort” me to a room they had ready and prepared, ensuring that I could educate the operators safely.
When visiting a larger hospital, like Policlinico or San Raffaele, unfortunately you cannot control access across all visitors in the same way. It is not possible to have a designated escort for everyone who enters and leaves the hospital. In these larger hospitals, there are not only patients infected with COVID-19 – there are other patients there, too, with an already weakened immune system. They are the first ones we must protect; they are in the hospital to receive lifesaving treatment, not to become more unwell.
When talking with others, such as operators, doctors and health management, anxiety can begin to overwhelm you. You see the tiredness of those working 10-12 hour shifts each day, and you feel their tension; tension that stays with you even when you are home where your family is waiting for you. They are the first ones you, personally, need to protect, and this worry and way of thinking will not simply disappear on July 30 when the national emergency ends. We must protect them every day, all year round, because the risk of COVID-19 will remain, even though it will be less prominent than it is today.
On February 22, I read a headline that made the virus very real for me: “First case in Milan: 78-year-old hospitalised at San Raffaele”. I had been at that hospital just a few days before, and I had been in several departments. Of course, I could very well not have come into contact with this specific patient, but the 50/50 possibility that I could have was what I thought about the most.
As a first step, I immediately tried to understand what I needed to do. I tried to contact the emergency services at 112, who were in total chaos. In the end, I managed to speak with my family doctor. Nobody knew what to do, nobody knew anything, we were unprepared… and it was only the beginning.