Checking a patient's saturation in the red zone. Photo: Marion Biremon / UNDP Kyrgyzstan

“Working in the red zone is very hard,” says Aida, a TB doctor in Naryn region. “I have four children at home and I haven’t seen them for already 14 days. I’m scared of what will happen if they fall sick, who will take care of them?”

Aida is working in the red zone for Covid-19 in Ak-Talaa. She’s worried for every one of her patients, especially because the hospital has little means. “We only have one ventilator for artificial respiration. Once we had two patients that needed to use it. So we put one on the ventilator and one on 4 oxygen concentrators. An elderly woman came to us with a saturation of 40% only, and little by little we were able to take her off the oxygen concentrators, turning them off one by one. After a few days, with a lot of efforts, we brought her saturation up to 90-92%. That’s how we reanimated two patients with just one ventilator. I’m very proud of our team and our resourceful,” says Aida, who is currently the only doctor in this red zone. 

Aida is working in the red zone for Covid-19 in Ak-Talaa.

For Nurgul, who is a medical social worker in Tokmok, working in the red zone was a completely new experience. “Covid-19 completely changed my work. I learned a lot: about medication, saturation, first-aid, how to use an oxygen concentrator… There were a lot of patients in a critical state, some were unconscious and we had to react immediately. We had to learn on the field. We couldn’t run away or abandon them.” Nurgul worked 14 days in a day hospital opened in a school in her city, but after only 9 days of rest she had to go back to the red zone to replace a colleague who was sick. “I’m happy to see that now we have less patients, the situation is clearly improving,” she says. When at the peak of the pandemic, they would treat around 300 people per day, they now have to care for less than 100 patients each day.

But we can hear in Nurgul’s voice that she is genuinely tired. “It wasn’t easy, and it was very scary. I was afraid for elderly patients, for their children who were worried, for my colleagues. I prayed a lot so that no one would die here. And I’m so relieved that we didn’t lose anyone.”

Nurgul, who is a medical social worker in Tokmok

“Medical workers really need support,” says Aida. “It’s very difficult to work in the red zone, especially in an isolated region where we have little means and personnel. Every time we go into the red zone we’re scared.” What keeps them going is their sense of responsibility and patients’ gratefulness.

To support health care workers in these unprecedented times of pandemic, the UNDP project “Effective HIV and TB Control in the Kyrgyz Republic”, funded by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tubeculosis and Malaria will soon organize online trainings on Covid-19 as well as psychological seminars and consultations for health care workers.


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