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14 Feb 2020

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Huashan Hospital: a “special force” in fight against epidemic

By Li Yijie

Medics from Huashan Hospital have been assigned mainly for ICU posts for their expertise. 


A “special force” on the frontline

Among the 17 national medical teams dispatched to Tongji Hospital Guanggu Branch in Wuhan on Feb. 9, the team from Huashan Hospital of Fudan University was assigned a greater mission: taking care of ICU (intensive care unit) patients.

Transferred from other specialist units of the hospital, the patients here are highly infectious, and some of them even have to live on intubation or ECMO. Every second could mean life or death for these patients and that’s why the team of Huashan Hospital is called the “special force”.

The captain of this team is Professor Li Shengqing, Director of Respiratory Medicine at Huashan Hospital. “Medical teams nationwide have stepped in to make full use of every second to reduce the novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP)’s fatality rate,” said Li. 

Her team arrived at their station in Wuhan at 9 p.m. on Feb. 9, and at 8 a.m. the next morning the team headed to Tongji Hospital Guanggu Branch. For the next weeks, they will be responsible for the ICU, which has 30 beds for patients in severe and critical condition.

While the ratio of doctors and nurses of other medical teams is kept roughly at 1:3, Huashan Hospital sent 30 doctors, 180 nurses and 5 medical support personnel, with a total of 215 people. Li said, the country had brought Wuhan not only the strongest medical forces, but also the confidence to win this battle. On the following sleepless nights, her team will race against time to save the lives of Wuhan residents from NCP.

Due the fact that patients in the ICU are required to put on a ventilator, virus exposure in such situations calls for stronger protection. During the half-day training session, Huashan medical team specified standardized procedures of inspection and treatment, ensuring that the team could first and foremost identify possible vulnerabilities in the new environment they were facing and find preventive measures to avert them.

Professor Chen Shu from the Infection Diseases Department at Huashan Hospital, is responsible for the safety of medical workers and disinfection of the entire hospital. He demonstrated for his team members the correct procedures of putting on and taking off the protective gown, sterilizing hands and taking off the hat and mask in order, to make sure everyone is well-protected when attending the ICU patients.


Overwhelming pressure in the ICU

Before Huashan team began to take over the patients, the first group of 4 patients had already been waiting at the door, accompanied by their families. For the medical staff, enormous pressure would fall on their shoulders the second they stepped in the ICU, for what would happen the next second could be a strenuous a tug of war with death.

“Please take us in as well, doctor,” two family members of a critically ill patient pleaded with the medics at the nurse station. It turned out that they themselves were also patients diagnosed with NCP, though at early stage. As the virus is highly contagious, household outbreaks in Wuhan are not uncommon. These family members wanted themselves to be admitted into the ICU too for more intensive care.

Li Shengqing was really torn by such situation, but she could do nothing about, other than telling the pleading patients, “We can’t accept you here. Only the most seriously ill patients are admitted to the ICU, and please contact your community for placement as soon as possible.”


The Huashan medical team has been divided into three groups to handle different tasks.


The Huashan team has been divided into three groups to deal with different tasks. They have created standardized operation procedures overnight to ensure that each patient could receive standardized and equal care. Among the procedures, “never wasting an instant on taking in the patients” is a vital one so as to intercept the spread of the epidemic. 

“The patients are seriously ill and our duties are onerous,” Li said, “We won’t be able to take in 30 patients at once. We will admit 5-6 more patients each day until we reach full capacity.”


All medics fight together to save lives

The life-or-death threat is a bigger test than the heavy workload, and the team must always be at their best.“When we were at work in gown, we could hardly tell from each other even when we stood side by side,” Professor Chen Shu said. “After returning from work, we all had to stay in our own room to minimize the risk of cross-infection”. He said half-jokingly that having been blocked by their protective gown and self-quarantine like that, they may not be able to recognize each other when the battle is over.” 

Li said it took only 90 minutes for Huashan Hospital to assemble this team, whose incredible willpower and effectiveness have boosted her confidence in winning this tough battle.


Medical equipment and disposable materials are important resources in the endeavor.


On the frontline in Wuhan, all the medical teams unite in support of each other. To aid Huashan medical team in face of the heavy tasks, teams from other cities such as Suzhou, Wuxi, Qingdao and Ruijin have brought over ventilators and ECMO. 

“Medical equipment and supplies are so important for the treatment of seriously ill patients. Here, we are united as one with the shared goal: kill the virus, end the battle, and get home soon,” said Li.


Editor: Deng Jianguo, Wang Mengqi


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