On January 28, 2020, at the height of the fight against Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Hubei Province, a batch of newly-converted isolation wards were put into use at Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science & Technology in Wuhan. Almost at the same time, a medical assistance team was already on standby to serve at the front line.
Time is life
The team was sent by Peking University First Hospital, Peking University People’s Hospital and Peking University Third Hospital. Within hours of receiving a notification from China’s National Health Commission (NHC), 60 medical workers had come together and were already prepared to head for Wuhan.
“My teammates and I are fully aware what it means to work on the front line at this moment. But more importantly we know the patients there need us, the people in Wuhan need us,” said Zhang Liu, an intensive care physician in the team.
Wang Hongjun, another medical worker in the team, cut off her hair which had been growing for 15 years. “Long hair is inconvenient and will increase the risk of infection. I cut it because I knew it was the best option: it might not look very nice now, but avoiding transmission is much more important.”
In the evening of January 26, a 130-person medical assistance team from the First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University also set out on a journey to Xiaogan, a severely-affected city in Hubei Province. It was the second day of Chinese Lunar New Year, which should be the time for happy gathering. But now medics of the team were saying goodbye to their family at the airport.
Liu Yuliang, one of the team leaders, stood alone during these farewells since his wife Xu Yu, a member of the medical team from the Army Medical University, had already left for Wuhan two days ago, while his 7-year-old son was at home with his grandparents to be safe. At 00:30 AM the next day, Liu arrived at destination and received a call from his wife, who had just got off from work. They exchanged a few words about their experience at the hospitals. From 02:30 to 04:00 AM, Liu discussed with his colleagues and developed a work plan. At 06:30 AM, he started his first day of work in this new theatre of battle.
During the outbreak of COVID-19, university-affiliated hospitals across China gave an impressively quick response to the country’s call for medical assistance to Hubei Province. A great number of ad-hoc assistance teams were organized and deployed in just days or even hours of the NHC’s call for assistance. This rapid response bought the country precious time in the battle against the epidemic.
CPC Party members stepping forward
On January 26, the Affiliated Hospital of Jiangxi University of Traditional Chinese Medicine announced the decision to send a medical assistance team to Hubei Province. Just within 2 hours, over 20 medics applied to join the team, including Wan Song. He wrote in his application form: “I solemnly request the Party organization to accept my application to join the team. I should be the one to go, not only because I am an experienced respiratory physician, but also because I am a CPC member, and a Party branch secretary!”
Chen Ping, a 28-year-old nurse from the First Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University submitted a different kind of application in response to the call of her hospital—she applied to become a CPC member. “I will fulfill my mission as a CPC member and take on my responsibilities as a medical worker at the front line,” she wrote.
In the forefront of the battle against COVID-19, CPC members played leading roles and set an example, which inspired many young medical workers to join the Party.
“We can make it!”
“Every day we work intensively for hours, non-stop,” said Hui Wei, a head nurse deployed by Tongji Hospital of Tongji University to assist Wuhan. She worked at a local hospital from 00:00 to 08:00. During her shift she didn’t eat, drink or go to the bathroom, since it was very time-consuming and inconvenient to change the protective gear and the supply of such medical resources were rather limited. Many medics also chose to wear adult nappies to get through long shifts.
The winter months in Wuhan are cold. But to avoid transmission, windows of the wards had to be kept open to ensure better ventilation and the use of air conditioners was forbidden. Many doctors and nurses’ hands were numb with cold after hours of hard work. Wearing heavy masks and safety glasses also left marks all over their faces.
“If the level of hardship in my normal work was 1, then here in Wuhan it is 5!” said Zhu Xingen, vice president of the Second Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University. “But we firmly believe that we can make it this time!”
During the outbreak of COVID-19, many university-affiliated hospitals deployed medical staff to support Hubei Province, including but not limited to the following:
1. Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical University
2. Beijing Tsinghua Changgung Hospital
3. Jiangxi University of Traditional Chinese Medicine
4. Peking University First Hospital
5. Peking University People’s Hospital
6. Peking University Third Hospital
7. Shanghai Fourth People’s Hospital
8. The Affiliated Hospital of Jiangxi University of Traditional Chinese Medicine
9. The Fifth Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University
10. The First Affiliated Hospital Hebei Medical University
11. The First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University
12. The First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine
13. The First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University
14. The First Affiliated Hospital of Jiangxi Medical College
15. The First Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University
16. The Fourth Affiliated Hospital Hebei Medical University
17. The Second Affiliated Hospital Hebei Medical University
18. The Second Affiliated Hospital of University of South China
19. The Second Hospital of Tianjin Medical University
20. The Second Xiangya Hospital Central South University
21. The Sixth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University
22. The Third Affiliated Hospital Hebei Medical University
23. Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute & Hospital
24. Tianjin Medical University Central Hospital
25. Tianjin Medical University Chu Hisen-I Memorial Hospital
26. Tianjin Medical University General Hospital Airport Hospital
27. Tongji Hospital of Tongji University
28. Xiangya Hospital of Central South University
29. Yangpu Hospital of Tongji University