There are probably very few people in the world who haven’t heard of COVID-19, which has been dominating news coverage and our social media timelines. EMA operates internationally, and this pandemic has crippled our ability to travel and severely impacted many parts of our program. With the first official cases of COVID-19 appearing in Myanmar this week, our staff at the TRAD Clinic in Ler Doh have been busy preparing for a response.
With so much uncertainty right now, panic can set in, causing people to stockpile surgical masks, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. But as followers of Christ, we do not use our gifts in a spirit of fear (2 Tim.1:7), but rather with power, love and a sound mind. Many decisions made out of fear, worry or panic turn out to be poor decisions down the road. Our mission to help the Karen is not diminished in the face of the pandemic, rather it is much more crucial. We seek wise counsel and use good, sanctified common sense to best prepare ourselves to care for our families and the patients entrusted to our care.
Best practices are being enforced for clinical staff, and hand washing demonstrations were given to our staff and students. Masks are required to be worn on duty at all times. Donated masks had weakened elastic bands, so staff have been sewing on new bands to make them functional. A shortage of hand sanitizer led to our pharmacy team making 15 liters of our own. Additional oxygen tanks and regulators were purchased. We have stockpiled diesel fuel and food in case rations become necessary in the next couple months.
The registration desk was moved so that incoming patients will not have to walk through the waiting room to register and begin care. Patients are not allowed in the lab or pharmacy areas to limit exposure. If a patient has a fever and is suspected to have the flu or COVID-19, they will move to a new isolation area that is nearing completion. This new unit includes a waiting area, exam room, and toilet facilities separate from the main clinic to limit exposure to others.
All of this will help reduce the impact of COVID-19. But the fear is that there aren’t nearly enough resources to effectively combat the virus, and the suppression efforts are not expected to give us enough time to acquire them. Our doctors and engineering teams are thinking outside the box on how to best use the materials we have, but please pray for our staff and students as we prepare to meet this outbreak, that we can serve with courage and shine the light of Christ in the midst of this challenging time.