Given the rapid spread of COVID-19 worldwide, Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) established the International Anti-COVID-19 Cooperation and Coordination Team to provide international assistance and to launch scientific research cooperation. Since early March, HUST has coordinated its affiliated hospitals and organized about 60 video conferences with partner universities as well as their medical institutions and affiliated hospitals in more than 40 countries including the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, the Netherlands, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Poland and Sri Lanka, to share its experience in epidemic control and prevention.
Immediate response with first-hand experience
In early March, Niguarda Hospital in Milan, one of the largest general hospitals in Italy, made a request for technical assistance from Tongji Hospital affiliated to Tongji Medical College of HUST, when Wuhan was still desperately struggling against the pandemic. Considering the critical situation in Europe, experts of Tongji Hospital made an immediate response to help and held a video conference with their Italian counterparts on March 5.
"This is a problem challenging all mankind, but many countries still know nothing about serious COVID-19 cases or the treatment... We have accumulated the first-hand data fighting against COVID-19 in Wuhan, so it is incumbent on us to support our international counterparts as early as possible," said Professor Wang Daowen, Director of Department of Cardiology of Tongji Hospital.
How to address the shortage of negative pressure wards? How to deal with the Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS)? How to control the source of infection? How to protect health care workers from infection? For nearly two hours, the Italian experts kept asking questions. "COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, and with the onslaught of so many cases, it is hard for any country to provide every patient with a negative pressure room. For us, we have transformed the general wards and turned off the air conditioning to reduce air flows. Besides, we put in place another two doors to the general wards to partition the clean area, semi-contaminated area and contaminated area." Experts from Tongji Hospital gave detailed answers to several important issues of Italian experts’ concern. "Your experience is very helpful. It means so much to us," said Enrico Ammirat, professor of anesthetic and critical care medicine at Niguarda Hospital in Milan.
So far, experts from Tongji Hospital have shared treatment experience with experts from Italy, the US, Germany and other countries in various forms while establishing COVID-19 consultation groups overseas, with the COVID-19 Prevention and Control Manual rendered into foreign languages for peer reference.
Be grateful and return the favor
"It is so warm that HUST has received regards and assistance from all over the world during the most difficult stage fighting against the pandemic,” said President Li Yuanyuan. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, HUST has received sincere greetings and material aid from more than 40 partners from 16 countries on 4 continents. Specifically, the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany donated 50,000 euros to Union Hospital affiliated to Tongji Medical College of HUST for the clinical immunology research on COVID-19.
As the pandemic spread in Germany, the Union Hospital arranged five video conferences with medical care workers from the University of Duisburg-Essen in late March. Hu Yu, President of the Union Hospital, said, "We would like to return the favor. The Union Hospital is willing to share its prevention and treatment experience through various channels and do our best to provide support and help." A shipment of medical supplies is currently on its way to the University of Duisburg-Essen under the deployment of the International Anti-COVID-19 Cooperation and Coordination Team.
It’s been more than 20 years since HUST and the University of Duisburg-Essen began cooperation and exchange, while the mutual friendship has been brought to a new level given the mutual assistance and cooperation in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic.
HUST has been concerned whether the overseas alumni can protect themselves from COVID-19. On March 15, a live streaming event was launched for Chinese compatriots in Switzerland and other parts of Europe. Respiratory medicine experts from the Union Hospital gave a lecture on how to protect yourself in public places and at home among other issues for nearly 5,000 netizens. Recently, medical care workers from the affiliated hospital have organized or participated in many live streaming events for overseas Chinese people to publicize and popularize COVID-19 related knowledge.
Chinese solution for the globe
In the early stage of the pandemic, large-scale makeshift hospitals were built and put in use in China, which effectively prevented the spread of COVID-19 and achieved remarkable results. At present, many countries have adopted the same or similar method according to local conditions.
On April 3, NHS Nightingale opened, which is the first makeshift hospital dedicated exclusively to treating COVID-19 patients in the UK. Just 5 days earlier, HUST conducted a video conference with the main builder of the hospital, School of Medicine and Dentistry of Queen Mary University of London, to share the construction and management experience of the makeshift hospital in China Optics Valley Convention & Exhibition Center of which Tongji Hospital took the lead in the management. This is the first time Tongji Hospital has ever shared experience in this regard with overseas counterparts.
"The makeshift hospital is a creative measure in China's fight against COVID-19. We can put in modest social resources, make simplest changes in the site to achieve largest admission capacity at the fastest rate," said Tang Zhouping, Vice President of Optics Valley Campus of Tongji Hospital and Director of Optics Valley Mobile Cabin Hospital of Tongji Hospital.
"Thank you for giving us a clear and intuitive view of China's experience in building makeshift hospitals," said Professor Colin Grant, vice- Principal of Queen Mary University of London.
Years-long friendship gives an edge in the battle
"An international relationship that began in 2016 when Lifespan leaders partnered with colleagues at Union Hospital in Wuhan, China, has given Rhode Island an edge in the fight against coronavirus disease." Local Media in Rhode Island spoke highly of the supportive friendship between Union Hospital, Brown University and Lifespan Group.
On April 1, Union Hospital offered assistance to its partners including Brown University and Lifespan Group via video. Experts of Nursing Department, Department of Critical Care Medicine, Anesthesiology Department, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery in the Union Hospital gave a comprehensive explanation for the US partners concerning the management of patients discharged from hospitals, COVID-19 related research, etc., while each department head shared abundant cases and detailed data.
Since 2016, the Lifespan Group and Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University have established cooperation with Union Hospital and Tongji Medical College in several fields, yielding fruitful results. Timothy J. Babineau, President of Lifespan Group, said, “When the relationship first started, we really didn’t know where it would lead or who would benefit and where the give-and-take would be. This is just terrific. We’ve known these people under, I would say, ‘peacetime circumstances,’ so we established great relationships. When we are in a crisis, we can rely on those relationships.”
Source: Office of International Affairs, Tongji Hospital, Wuhan Union Hospital