Taking collective responsibility in tough fight against COVID-19 pandemic

Yang Yang
Medical staff and grassroots workers in Minhang District have joined to ensure fever clinics are functioning, medical deliveries are being made, and seniors are cared for.
Yang Yang

Medical staff are at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 in Minhang District. They feel like they are an army breaking out of a net of infected cases. They feel tired but are not regretful, and see in the battle the spark of their initial resolution of being a doctor or a nurse.

Grassroots people from every walk have joined them, to fill in the workforce of a medicine storehouse, tend to the seniors or deliver vaccines to temporary vaccination sites. Here are their stories.

Taking collective responsibility in tough fight against COVID-19 pandemic
Ti Gong

Critically ill patients are transferred by ambulances to the hospital frequently.

Medical staff go beyond duty

Frontier medical professionals from the Minhang Central Hospital are in close combat with COVID-19.

Chen Chunyan, head nurse of the fever clinic, returned to her post while she was still in the recuperation period.

"In the last two weeks of December, our daily clinic visits reached a peak of 700-800, and almost all of our 24 nurses experienced the contagion," said Chen.

One male nurse, who was on his night shift, felt dizzy with headache and shivers. Afraid of no backup due to the labor shortage, he endured all the discomfort till the end of the night shift when he realized he was 40 degrees Celsius in fever, Chen recalled.

While the fever clinic is the first to bear the brunt, doctors and nurses from the emergency department were also up to their necks in work.

"On December 26, we received a total of 2,032 patients and 106 of them experienced intensive care," said Sun Keyu, chief of the emergency department. Ambulances have been dispatched frequently.

Twenty-five out of the 26 doctors of the department have been infected. They returned to their posts when they felt a little better.

The doctors, together with about 150 nurses, have worked at a full load, according to Sun.

Taking collective responsibility in tough fight against COVID-19 pandemic
Ti Gong

A nurse checks on a patient in the intensive care unit at Minhang Central Hospital.

Taking collective responsibility in tough fight against COVID-19 pandemic
Ti Gong

Medical staff respond to a patient requiring urgent treatment.

The critical care medicine department of the Central Hospital of Minhang District has two ward sections. One is equipped with 22 beds for critically ill patients, with eight doctors and 28 nurses assigned to care for them. The other section houses 44 beds for reception of COVID-19 patients – 20 doctors and 27 nurses are on duty.

"Later, as the critically ill patient number increased, we 'borrowed' one floor of the neurosurgical ward section as our COVID-19 critical care medicine ward," said Li Xiang, chief of critical care medicine department.

"When we were hit most by COVID-19, we had only eight doctors and 17 nurses tending the wards. And each one had to work for several days. But no one complained."

From December 13 to 30, the hospital had received more than 70 critically ill patients, some needed help from a respirator and some had to undergo hemodialysis. The majority were seniors with underlying diseases.

Taking collective responsibility in tough fight against COVID-19 pandemic
Ti Gong

A local district official teaches an elderly woman living alone how to use a smart wrist band.

Helping the elderly at home

Meanwhile, Minhang District Civil Affairs Bureau teamed up with officials of towns, subdistricts and industrial zones to ensure seniors living alone have access to medication and intensive care if they become infected.

The district has a total of 14,724 seniors, who are living alone, or without family members.

On December 18, the Xinhong Seniors' Daycare Center in the district received a phone call.

"Can my mom attend the daycare center on Monday?" asked the man on the other end of the line.

The man's mother, a senior surnamed Cao, is a patient with severe cognitive impairment.

The daycare center replied with a "yes."

"Please do the antigen test for her, check her temperature and make sure she wears a face mask," cautioned a staff worker of the center. "We will pick her up on Monday."

In spite of a rise of infected cases, the daycare center continues to open for seniors with classified services. They help the seniors take antigen tests and check their temperatures twice a day.

Those in normal health conditions can stay at the center, while those with abnormal conditions will stay at home, with the center offering guidance on caring tips.

Taking collective responsibility in tough fight against COVID-19 pandemic
Ti Gong

A deliveryman in need is a friend indeed.

Once informed that several octogenarians and nonagenarians who live alone were infected with COVID-19, the daycare center sent them meals, with staff workers calling to inquire about their conditions every day.

The seniors' canteen in Hongqiao Town had to temporarily suspend its service for several days due to increasing COVID-19 infections among its staff workers. The town's office for the aging people triggered an emergency mechanism. Food was ordered from other seniors' canteens.

Short of deliverymen, the office clerks drove their own cars to deliver the 322 packages of meals to more than 70 addresses. Community officials and volunteers then relayed to send the hot meals to seniors' homes.

In Xinzhuang Town, aging office officials and volunteers help seniors with their medical prescriptions, online shopping and even give them some smart phone using tips.

Disabled elderly and seniors who live alone are offered round-the-clock health monitoring services through smart wrist bands and smart mattresses.

Taking collective responsibility in tough fight against COVID-19 pandemic
Ti Gong

Community medical staff work in relays to tend to the minor-symptom patients on intravenous drops at the service center.

Working together in relays

As community health centers are part of a national network of healthcare providers that fill an important role in responses to the coronavirus pandemic, medical professionals there are working in relays to ensure the smooth operation, despite many having only recently recovered from infection.

Doctors and nurses at Meilong Community Health Center's Luoyang General Office are bearing the brunt of treating COVID-19 patients this winter. Most of its medical staff have been infected and experienced fever, pain, ferocious coughing and other syndromes.

Zhu Xiufang, a doctor with the Luoyang General Office, resumed work at the fever clinic as soon as she became a little better.

At the Zhuhang Branch of Meilong Community Health Center doctor Jing Rudong worked alone to guarantee the operation of the fever clinic. Sometimes he worked for an entire morning non-stop to help patients.

Taking collective responsibility in tough fight against COVID-19 pandemic
Ti Gong

Xu Han (right) starts volunteering at the community health center's medicine storehouse.

Volunteers step up

The medicine storehouse of Hongqiao Community Health Center normally have three staff workers. As two got infected, pharmacist Zhu Ling was left alone to tend the storehouse.

On December 22, Xu Han, her son who is a senior in college, joined her as an "assistant."

He shouldered the responsibility of some simple yet monotonous work like inventory checks, delivering and storing hundreds of boxes of medicines daily.

"I came to the health center to help my mom and work as a volunteer," said Xu. "Our medicine storehouse is like an ammunition storehouse against the COVID-19."

Taking collective responsibility in tough fight against COVID-19 pandemic
Ti Gong

Xia Longxu, a technician volunteer, delivers vaccine twice a day.

Xia Longxu, an electricity and pipe maintenance technician at Qibao Community Health Service Center, arrives punctually before 8am at the health center's cold-chain storage room every day.

He opens the cold storage door, takes out the insulation box and checks its temperature and number of COVID-19 vaccines inside it. Then he writes detailed information on a record sheet, signs his signature and delivers the insulation box with the vaccines to nearby vaccination sites.

This is the extra work Xia has been shouldering since COVID-19 vaccination was initiated in Shanghai.

These temporary vaccination sites are not equipped with monitoring systems for vaccines at night. Therefore cold-chain delivery is needed to send vaccines in the morning and deliver the remainder back to the health service center in the evening.

Due to workforce shortage, Xia, a maintenance technician, has taken the responsibility of vaccine delivery twice a day. To be a qualified delivery man, Xia memorized the different packages of vaccines.

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