March 11, 2020. 29 cases of infection with the new coronavirus confirmed in Romania, of which 12 new. It’s just beginning.
4 days before the beginning of the state of emergency, the Romanian Angel Appeal team starts one of the most intense and motivating brainstorming actions: what do we do? What do we do with the beneficiaries of our projects, especially with the TB patients? They are more vulnerable, their lungs, whether they are cured patients or under treatment, are much more susceptible to any other respiratory infection. And COVID-19, that’s how it kills: severely affecting the lungs. How can we help, how can we support the whole country’s effort to overcome the pandemic?
On March 16, the first day of the state of emergency, we already had the answer, because we are many and we have many ideas: on the one hand we will distribute protective materials and disinfectants to medical staff in TB dispensaries in 5 counties, on the other hand we will explore alternative ways to help patients with tuberculosis in the medium and long term so that the care and support system will be prepared for another emergency.
And we started the search: money, PPE materials and disinfectants.
For the money, we started a public fundraising campaign and turned to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the international donor that since 2004 has invested tens of millions of euros in Romania to fight HIV / AIDS and Tuberculosis. We were encouraged that the Global Fund also understood the exceptional situation of the whole world and supported the effort to limit the number of infections. After completing the needs analysis for 5 counties, we also received the answer we were waiting for: go for it! Our colleagues from the Stop TB Romanian Partnership also helped us in the discussions with the dispensaries and in collecting the needs from the grass-root level: Iulian Petre from UNOPA and Ştefan Răduţ, Cătălina Constantin and Monica Ghiță from ASPTMR, to whom we thank for being so supportive and helpful!
For materials, it was a gruelling effort to find stocks available at a time when huge quantities of masks and gloves were being bought on all continents at prices that had become prohibitive. And not only the lack of materials was the problem but especially their quality. We checked that each manufacturer, each brand of masks, gloves or disinfectant, has the necessary quality characteristics and CE marking, i.e. to be certified for EU market.
It was an enormous effort in a context for new everyone, with obstacles and risks that we do not encounter in our regular activity. We have been constantly monitoring the InfoCons alert system to remove from our list those brands of products considered to be hazardous to health.
Little by little, like ants in moss, we managed to gather in our office, over 3 tons of products.
On Wednesday, May 27, the first loaded truck left for the TB Dispensaries Arad, Lipova, Sebiş, Craiova, Medgidia, Calafat, Hârșova, Cernavodă, Mangalia, Buhuşi, Pașcani, Hârlău and Segarcea.
On Thursday, May 28, the second fully loaded truck left for the TB dispensaries in Iași, Constanta, Hârlău, Pașcani, Bacău, Onești, Moineşti, Comăneşti, Segarcea and to the Leamna Pneumoftiziology Hospital.
The TB dispensaries in the country are, for the most part, sections of city hospitals. The needs of the wards with beds will always take priority over the outpatient units, especially in hospitals with limited resources. We want doctors and nurses who work with TB patients, who during this period have made enormous efforts to bring treatment to patients at home, to benefit from protective materials, to continue their work.
Our fundraising campaign continues, because, let’s not forget, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warn that not “if?”, but “when will the second wave come?” it is the question that the governments of the world must answer.
Until then, the fact that the new coronavirus is in the community makes us all more careful when applying universal precautions, because anyone who comes to a service, be it medical, social, support, administrative, etc. might be infected. That is why health workers who work in communities must also be adequately protected. It is a reality that we will live with for a long time and that should not affect the continuation of essential services and the chances of healing of TB patients. Basically, we do not want to let the youngest pandemic (COVID19) amplify the world’s oldest epidemic (TB).