From the beginning, people applauded us. Now they are writing hate messages, says a medic


We will always be here for you. You can always count on us. And it doesn’t matter if you are one of those who applaud us or curse us, says Ivan Hrkel. A nurse from the ICU in Bulovka, who now takes care (not only) of patients with covid, gave an interview to the List of Reports, in which he described what his work looks like. Even how ugly the news is coming to the medics now. “Some people should think about the fact that we really sacrifice a lot to help others,” he says.

The interview arose during the filming of the journalistic program Terén, in the current work of which journalist Kristina Ciroková mapped out what first-line health professionals are experiencing. And how they perceive society’s reluctance to become more modest again because of the infection. You will find the answers in the attached video. Interview with Ivan Hrkel then below.

Kristina Ciroková’s terrain: Unlocked. We investigated why the coronavirus crisis did not unite the Czechs now. (Video: Kristina Ciroková)

Say: What’s the situation with you in the ward now?

Heavy. Difficult because the staff is scarce and the work is still increasing. We still have to work overtime, so we are already quite mentally and physically tired.

When you talk about overtime, can you figure it out, let’s get an idea?

I have had 6 services in the last 7 days. With the fact that I have 3 nights, then a day off and then I go to 3 days. And that’s how we all take turns, because there is a shortage of staff. In addition, we had to choose the holidays that they canceled for us at first, the harder it is to fill the services.

How many hours does the service last?

Officially 12 o’clock, from seven in the morning to seven in the evening, or vice versa if you have a night. But of course we take turns sooner and how many times we leave later. You can’t say you’re leaving when you have something unfinished. You don’t want to pass it on to the service that comes after you.

Did the hospital management try to find help staff, for example? Do you already have someone like that here?

As far as I know, yes, they tried. They come here to help a doctor, but since this department is specific to both devices and patients, it takes some time to learn. And for the four nurses, the so-called commuters, to take turns here among other hospitals, it would be very difficult for them and for us. Because we really have to teach them in our operation, with our devices.

I understand. Could you describe how demanding the care of covid patients is? Is it different than during normal operation?

It depends on whether the patient is conscious, the so-called spinner, or whether he is intubated. When he is conscious, he helps us in many things, he cooperates with us. For a patient who is intubated, you only need 3 to 4 nurses for hygiene. 2 sisters plus sanitary. For turning, for safety – so we don’t pull something out during handling. By this I mean, for example, an intubation cannula. Physically, it is sometimes very difficult, because covid affects various people, of course, but often obese. And obesity makes the job a lot harder.

And you’re still in protective suits. How often do you have to change, how do you work?

We have Tyveks here (type of disposable protective clothing, note red.), in short atombordely, in which it is unbelievably hot. We are very happy that we now received air conditioning as a sponsorship gift from the region, because we didn’t have it here before the summer and it needed 38 degrees in the room. And we sweated a lot in that. From the heat, your brain doesn’t think much of you anymore. And sometimes we only need 10 minutes, sometimes 2 hours. It depends on whether the patient is stable, lying with us, or if it is a new admission, or we have to do some more professional work such as introducing central venous accesses, intubating, or calling you to resuscitation… It is very individual. I was in it for the longest time in 3 and a half hours.

Aren’t you afraid of getting infected? So that you can infect your family then?

So from the beginning I was scared. Maybe the first two months. Because we didn’t know what it meant. Now I still have respect for the covid, but no longer fear. The second thing is that I work in the infectious disease department and there are many times why to be afraid of other illnesses that are needed for longer hospitalizations or have a much worse course than covid-19.

When you look at the number of people infected, how do you feel about being human, what do you encounter with patients?

As follows: There was also an increase in the spring, but so many hospital deployments have not been addressed. Personally, the current government massage seems really crazy to me. And it makes our job very difficult. Because in the beginning, people from outside applauded us, helped us. And now how many times we get hate news. That we pretend to be so desperate that we’re just complaining is just seeing us in black. But health professionals are not the ones who complain that there are those increases. We are ready for it. Basically at our own expense, at the expense of physical and mental health, but we are here. However, the government should think about the media massage. What he releases to the public for information.

And what do you say to people who refuse to wear veils, who simply refuse any restrictions because of a pandemic?

Well… Since I myself have a veil up to my neck at work, I am also happy when I don’t have to have it, that they are not mandatory outside. I accepted that I had to take them to a store or public transport.

So definitely veils. But if you ask me for my private opinion on all those other measures, I’m somewhere in between. I think that as everything closes now, it won’t have that effect anyway. They will gradually release it – and there will be a third wave again. For me personally, and I really do not speak for other health professionals, the measures are unnecessarily exaggerated. Yes, wear veils to stay in shops and public transport, but those other things more human.

I will return to how you said that work is very demanding physically, but also mentally. How do you do it mentally yourself? And what about colleagues?

We collectively support each other here. We help each other a lot. We now have both covid and non-vido patients in the ward. We change them regularly to make it fair; just one week my sister has a covidy, the other sister has a necovide, then they change. In order to have some psychohygiene, a rest from it all, from dressing to those Tyveks, from the demands of those patients… We try to build services so that there are more of us in them. So that it is not so much mental and physical pressure.

It’s really tiring, because as there are more of us in the service, the number of services increases. We have more overtime and we are more at work, which affects the personal lives of us all. You’re still at work, you’re never home, it’s probably hard for a junkie to understand. I personally have a health care partner, so he understands the situation, but it’s still hard. It’s hard to hear I’m still at work.

Would you like to say something to people? For example, those who are now afraid that they will not get a bed in the hospital because the healthcare system is simply overcrowded?

It is simple. I would like to tell them that we will always be here for them. And it doesn’t matter what they think of us, whether they applaud us or curse us: We paramedics will always be here. And we will always take care of them. And we will always try to do the impossible to find the bed for them. Even at the cost of unfortunately sometimes sacrificing our own personal lives to help others. Some people should think about that. That we really sacrifice a lot to help others.


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