Acts of kindness abound in Turkey amid the coronavirus pandemic. The latest to join the helping-hand movement is a group of physicians from all across the country, uniting under the roof of “a virtual hospital” to make sure health care services continue in the face of stricter measures for social distancing to combat the coronavirus.
The virtual hospital project launched by anesthesiology and algology specialist professor Nebahat Bulut of Beykent University’s Faculty of Medicine aims to ease physicians’ workloads as well as prevent crowding in hospitals.
Bulut said thanks to virtual consultations via social media, email or phones, they want to help patients that are not in need of urgent medical care as well as those who are afraid to go to hospitals in the current situation.
She delivered the uplifting news via Twitter on Monday, collecting all of her fellow volunteer colleagues’ contact information, namely their Twitter accounts, under a single thread on her account.
"Welcome to the Virtual Hospital! Under this message, I will add colleagues I come across on social media who are answering questions regarding general medicine/(their areas of) expertise during this pandemic. Please, do not go to hospitals for non-emergency situations, let's stay at home," her first tweet read.
Bulut said she came up with the idea after seeing that many patients were left in limbo with results of their blood or urine tests, X-rays or MRIs in their hands. Unable to understand or interpret the data and concerned about going to the doctors during such sensitive times for follow-ups, many people started reaching out via social media, she said.
What initially started as a small gathering of volunteer doctors to help guide patients and put concerns to rest eventually grew into something much bigger.
“I first added five or six colleagues I knew under the tweet, but soon support messages from people I didn’t even know also came flooding in. Many fellow physicians from all over Turkey were messaging me, saying ‘add my name too, I am willing to help,'" she said.
The virtual hospital has much variety, as you’d expect from a full-fledged training and research hospital; from dermatologists, plastic surgeons and physiotherapists to neuropsychologists and rheumatologists, there are over 60 specialists from different branches offering online services and consultations completely free of charge.
Even though the project has only just passed the 72-hour mark, the doctors have answered almost 3,000 questions and given detailed explanations of test results, Bulut said.
She said two infection specialists were also giving all the information they could about the latest situation regarding COVID-19.
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