New robots treat Italian patients so doctors can keep their distance

UNTV News   •   April 2, 2020   •   602

Help has finally arrived at the Circolo hospital in Varese, on the frontline dealing with enormous numbers of patients in the area hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak. And it has come in the form of six robots.

The child-size machines, with large blinking eyes, work in some of the most infectious wards. One of them has been named Tommy after the son of the head of the intensive care unit.

“Using my abilities medical staff can be in touch with the patients without direct contact,” Tommy the robot explained.

The northern region of Lombardy, centred on the financial capital Milan, has accounted for 43% of Italy’s known coronavirus cases and 59% of deaths. Varese lies sixty kilometres (37 miles) north of Milan and the Circolo hospital has been under attack from the virus for weeks.

“The idea was born when we thought about the risk of infection and we saw the situation of isolation of our patients,” explained the Director of High Intensity Medicine at the hospital, Francesco Dentali.

“To avoid the risk of infection without increasing the risk for the patient we thought the robot could be a good idea to take care of our patient,” he said.

“The risk of infection is high also with protection so all the staff, doctors and nurses are happy because robots can help in avoiding the risk of infection,” Dentali said.

Robots enter rooms where coronavirus patients are being treated and remain inside the infectious wards. They are being used in a number of ways to augment the work of the doctors and nurses and help in several important areas; namely to reduce some of the work load from exhausted medical teams and most importantly cut down the number of times there is direct contact with the patients. This also reduces the number of times staff have to put on and take off protective clothing, saving time and equipment but more importantly cutting down the risk of contamination.

“The other advantage for the patient and medical staff is also from the point of view of the organisation of the hospital. It allows us to use less protective clothing like masks and overalls which at this time are in scarce supply,” Gianni Bonelli Director of Varese Circolo hospital said.

The robots can relay back vital information from patients taken from machines reading vital statistics. Medical staff can also communicate with patients via the robots and vice versa. Medical staff say the robots allow patients to be more closely monitored, more time is spent monitoring their recovery and highlight quickly any problems that crop up.

The Italian national federation of doctors, surgeons and orthodontists said last week that 46 of their colleagues had died so far, many of them family doctors in northern towns and cities. Circolo hospital hopes their robots can cut down that risk.

The Circolo hospital is the main hospital in a regional area of responsibility that includes a further 6 hospitals and works with some 5,000 staff. The safety of their medical teams is of paramount importance.

So far in Lombardy, at least two hospitals became vehicles of contamination, with patients infecting medical staff who then spread the disease as they travelled around their communities before a stringent lockdown was imposed.

At a national level, 4,268 health workers – or 0.4 percent of the total – had contracted the virus as of March 20, according to the National Health Institute.

Apart from the safety issue, the hospital hopes coronavirus patients will be left less alone.

“You have to explain to the patients what is the aim and the function of the robot. The first reaction is not positive especially for old patients but if you explain to the patients what is your aim the patient is happy because he or she can speak with the doctor,” Dentali said. (Reuters)

(Production: Alex Fraser, Cristiano Corvino, Eleanor Biles)

Quezon City mayor cancels city hall parties, to donate funds

Robie de Guzman   •   September 29, 2020

Parties for all offices under the Quezon City government during the holidays will no longer be held this year amid the continuing novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said Tuesday.

A statement released on Tuesday said Belmonte has issued a memorandum directing all offices under the city hall to cancel parties scheduled in December and instead ordered them to donate the funds to underprivileged groups.

“The money that would have been spent on office Christmas parties would do more good as donations to the underprivileged during this extraordinarily difficult time in our nation’s history,” Belmonte said in a statement.

The local chief executive stressed that “it would be inappropriate for offices of the city government to hold customary Christmas parties while many of its citizens are experiencing hardships due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.”

Instead of holding parties, she urged city hall employees to adopt an underprivileged sector— such as the urban poor, displaced workers, jeepney drivers, street vendors, indigent children, and poor senior citizens— and to modestly celebrate the season in their homes.

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Batanes records first COVID-19 case

Robie de Guzman   •   September 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The province of Batanes on Tuesday said it has recorded its first case of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) since the start of the pandemic early this year.

According to Batanes Governor Marilou Cayco, the province reported its first COVID-19 case after a 29-year old resident who returned on Sept. 22 tested positive for the virus.

He has a travel history in Santa Rosa, Laguna. He returned to the province on board a Philippine Air Force plane with 18 others.

Cayco said the patient is asymptomatic and currently under isolation and monitoring of the provincial COVID-19 task force.

She added that all 18 individuals who had close contact with the patient have been subjected to swab test and are now strictly being monitored.

Batanes is currently under a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) but the local government will recommend to place the province under a two-week GCQ to curb the spread of coronavirus disease.

Cayco said outpost checkpoints will also be set up in all municipalities to monitor and limit the movement of people.

Airport operations and commercial flights to and from the province will also be suspended.

“Medivac lang ang pwedeng pumunta dito in some emergency cases. Pero yung commercial flights pina-stop muna namin,” she said.

The local government reminds residents to follow health protocols such as the wearing of face masks and face shields and observe physical distancing. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dan Gersalia)

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DOH allows private companies to implement lockdown

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 29, 2020

The Department of Health (DOH) will allow private companies to implement lockdown in their offices or health care facilities to prevent coronavirus disease (COVID-19) exposure.

DOH Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said aside from the minimum health protocols, private companies should also consider the mental health of their employees if they will implement a lockdown.

For example may mga ibang ospital (For example, there are hospitals) that would rather have their employees stay with them, they have their dormitory. Wala munang uuwi dito muna kasi kapag umuwi kayo sa community you go back at nadadala niyo ang mga impeksyon dito (No one will go home yet because, once you go home to your community and you come back, you might bring the infection here), she said.

According to the Health Department, the duration of the lockdown will depend on the agreement between the company and its employees. She also reminded employees that they can also decline being put into lockdown.

Hindi naman dapat pumayag din ang isang employee kung iyan ay labag sa kaniya. Mayroon naman silang ganoong karapatan kailangan lang po na naipapaliwang ng maayos (Employees don’t need to agree if they don’t want to. They have the right to do so. Things must be explained properly),Vergeire added.

The health official also reminded private companies to make sure that their employees understand the reason behind the lockdown, taking into account the difficulty of being away from their families especially during the pandemic.

Vergeire also said employees should also be able to talk to experts with regards to their mental health.

“It is okay not to be okay especially at this time during our situation in the pandemic. Okay lang po iyan lahat tayo nakakaramdam ng ganiyan (That’s okay, we all feel that). We just have to have that coping mechanism,” she said. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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