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Serving in a Pandemic: Deciding to Stay and Work

April 8, 2020

Coronavirus travel restrictions sign inside an airportBy Dr. B, serving in Central Asia

In the USA the deaths attributed to Covid-19 seem to be rising exponentially. On March 19, the number of deaths was 195, but one week later that figure exceeded 1,000. And by last report the total deaths is over 10,000.

Alarmed by what has been happening in the rest of the world, the government of our Central Asian country gave warning on March 18 that it would be closing its borders by March 23. This decision was reflected in advisory from the US State Department, “All US citizens are recommended to either return home immediately or prepare to remain in their host country indefinitely.”

This was a sobering thought. It is one thing to be overseas because you volunteer to live and work there. But it is another thing to be in a foreign country because you have no choice! Our grandson was born on March 14, and we really wanted to visit our son and his growing family. But we also realized that newborns should not be exposed to visitors who had recently been traveling overseas. So, we reconfirmed our commitment to stay and help the people of our Central Asian country as best we could.

Our Clinic trains family medicine residents from the national medical academy. Because of the current restrictions, the national training institution has allowed their doctors in training to simply “shelter in place” in their homes. We currently have three family medicine doctors who are training at our clinic. As restrictions on movement were being implemented, I asked them what they wanted to do?

“We want to stay here and work in the clinic,” they eagerly said. I was impressed. I can’t say that I would have done the same thing during my residency program (over 30 years ago). Medical training can be a grueling experience, and many of us would have jumped at the opportunity for an unexpected vacation. The concept of family and teamwork among our Christian staff had clearly become attractive to these young doctors, and they wanted to be a part of that team!

And true to their word, these local family medicine residents have been staying long hours and working diligently as the clinic remains open to serve the people of our Central Asian host country. With the help of an American computer programmer, they have put together a “Corona Virus Hotline” where patients can go to the clinic website and answer a questionnaire regarding their symptoms. Based on their responses, patients are either called by our residents on the phone, asked to come in for a visit, or recommended to call an ambulance.

In addition, our family medicine residents have put together a brochure about the Corona Virus for our patients. On their own they translated this information into the local language as well as Russian, Korean and English! Moreover, they arrive each day even before the clinic opens and stay until after it closes, even on Saturday, even though they are only required to work six hours a day on Monday through Friday.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need." (Ps. 23:1)