Feature: Chinese experts in Kazakhstan give advice on protecting health workers

Chinese experts communicate with Kazakh colleagues on hospital management to lower infections among health workers at the No. 9 polyclinics of Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, April 14, 2020. (Business Kazakhstan Newspaper/Handout via Xinhua)

"At the moment, we need to pay great attention to the protection of health workers," said Dr. Lu Chen.

The 10-member Chinese medical team has continued their visit in Kazakhstan, giving suggestions to their Kazakh colleagues on how to lower infections among health workers and treat patients.

The raging virus has infected 370 health workers in Kazakhstan as of Wednesday, or nearly 30 percent of the 1,295 COVID-19 cases in the country.

With protection suits, gloves, shoe covers, respiratory masks and special face shields, Chinese experts wearing head-to-toe equipment visited the No.9 polyclinics of Nur-Sultan on Tuesday, and recommended their Kazakh colleagues to adopt the same level of protection.

The Chinese experts showed interest in every detailed measure taken by the hospital, including how patients are admitted and how each department works.

"At the moment, we need to pay great attention to the protection of health workers," said Dr. Lu Chen, vice president of the People's Hospital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and deputy head of the Chinese medical team in Kazakhstan.

Lu suggested that a two-corridor system for doctors and patients be introduced. All patients and their relatives must wear face masks, and hospitals must be in complete disinfection, he said.

Saule Smagulova, director of the hospital, said the experience from their Chinese colleagues is invaluable, adding that all safety measures must be followed.

Also on Tuesday, the Chinese medical team held online training for more than 800 doctors and nurses on protecting themselves from infection while treating their patients.

"When the epidemic broke out, Chinese health workers underwent mass infections due to a lack of information and a shortage of preventive measures and protective supplies. As all these problems were solved, the infection rate began to drop sharply," said Dr. Lu Xiaobo, a leading infectious diseases specialist with the People's Hospital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Intensive care department staff in Chinese hospitals now work for a maximum of 4 hours, while testing staff and laboratory assistants work for 6 hours to minimize infection, Lu Xiaobo added.

Yu Yanxia, head nurse of the People's Hospital of the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang, recommended that the hospitals treating COVID-19 patients should be divided into three zones -- pollution, semi-contaminated, and clean. Doctors should wear masks and glasses with a mandatory leak-proof test, use double layers in clothing and follow a strict procedure for removing and putting on suits, Yu said.

The Chinese experts have been working from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. over the past six days. They have conducted training and communicated with Kazakh experts, health workers and health authorities on diagnosis, treatment, testing and quarantine regime of COVID-19.

The Chinese medical team arrived in Nur-Sultan on April 9 and plans to also visit Karaganda and Almaty.