COVID-19: Global medical and scientific research the key | Daily News


 

COVID-19: Global medical and scientific research the key

Dinuka Ariyarathna
Dinuka Ariyarathna

Final year medical student Dinuka Ariyarathna, who studies at the James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, has been actively working with fellow medical staff to combat the Covid19 virus that hit Down Under.

He has always been passionate about pediatric and emergency health in a rural and remote setting which reflects in commitment to providing health care for underserved populations, while helping with COVID-19 he is doing a research project seek the gaps in clinical practice and improve it with evidence-based medicine.

Even though the situation easing out globally, still many fear possible second wave with health officials stating that the world has to live with the virus until a vaccine is found. While many who were studying and stranded in Australia decided to come back, Dinuka decided to stay and put his education and experience into practice.

He shares his experience with the Daily News in working during these trying times and preparing for a possible second wave of the virus.

Q: How has the experience been so far working during the pandemic?

A: I am currently on an extended clinical placement in a rural town called Innisfail, in Far North Queensland, Australia. As a final year medical student in a rural placement. I am grateful for the College of Medicine, JCU for allowing me to do this extended rural placement in Innisfail.

A lot of final year medical students were graduated and given jobs immediately due to the worsening state of the global pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, Australia too believed this fast track processing of medical students would be the next best step due to the impact COVID-19 had on highly exceptional healthcare systems worldwide. In Queensland, we were supposed to be hired by Queensland Health (the government healthcare provider for the state of Queensland) as Assistant In Medicine (AIM)s to reduce the burden on the Australian healthcare system. During the pandemic, there was heightened anxiety among the existing workforce who are understandably concerned about the impact COVID-19 on their patients and themselves. My experience was quite different from some of my colleagues who were working in cities or regional areas as the workforce in the rural hospital in Queensland were minimal. Many of the medical staff treated me as a “fully-fledged intern” at their rural hospital during the pandemic as many of the visiting medical officers who travelled to Innisfail from cities had stayed back due to the travel restrictions placed by the government. Additionally, having to attend extra learning on COVID-19, ever-changing clinical guidelines due to the rapidly evolving virus and performing medical simulation for COVID-19 scenario at the hospital were new experiences all medical staff had to face during this uncertain time.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of being a medical staffer during this pandemic?

A: Due to the pandemic, undoubtedly many of us have many numerous challenges. However, medical staff must overcome extraordinary challenges in both their clinical and personal environments. Every time a patient is queried for COVID-19 from the moment they enter the hospital, the medical staff are under immense pressure to follow proper protocol and measures. In a rural hospital, exposure to COVID-19 could be the collapse of an entire health workforce in the region and making this community more vulnerable.

I believe some of the challenges I faced during this pandemic are, the anxiety I faced if I was exposed to COVID-19 in Australia. I am an international student studying far away from family and home the lack of not being with one’s family during such an unprecedented time makes a significant impact on one’s mental health. Furthermore, the lack of competency and readiness to make through this pandemic in a low-resource environment such as rural Queensland added another layer of challenge to my clinical experience.

Q: What made you stay back and render your service to the Australian medical service?

A: I had many sleepless nights contemplating this very question. At the time, travel restrictions were fully imposed in Australia and Sri Lanka. I believe at that stage COVID-19 had not reached Far North Queensland however major cities were declared hotspots for COVID-19 including international airports.

The reason I stayed back was to follow internationally recognized evidence-based clinical guidelines which clearly stated non-essential travel were to cease and various other measures for reducing the spread of the virus. As a future medical professional, I wanted to lead by example and wanted to serve the local community I was with the best of my ability were the two reasons I believe made me stay back and render my service to the Australian healthcare system. At the time, international students were one of the most vulnerable groups affected by the COVID-19. Initially, there was so much anguish between the international student communities in Australia and the Australian government regarding the lack of support of international students who were devastatingly affected by COVID-19. Since then, I believe the Australian government had made great strife and restorative measures in supporting the international student communities both in financial and personal matters through various initiatives and programmes.

Q: How did Australia and its health frontline workers prepare for the pandemic?

A: The Australian government was very proactive in its preparedness for the COVID-19 pandemic. It has successfully flattened the COVID-19 curve. I believe its success should be attributed to Australian health workers and government officials. The Australian success was due to its containment and capacity building programme which were carried out. Border closures, quarantine, widespread testing, active tracing and social distancing were all part of the containment plan; however, the capacity-building plan had more success in preparing and combating the pandemic. Capacity building programme involved the recruitment of medical staff, securing medical equipment and increase production of equipment. I believe this extraordinary planning and preparedness for COVID-19 is the reason for the standout global success Australia had with managing COVID-19.

Q: What has the Covid-19 virus taught you, and what can you share with health officials in Sri Lanka?

A: I believe the health efforts by the Sri Lankan health officials and government are exceptional as they have kept the mortality level to single-digit numbers in population of 21.5 million people. Sri Lanka made an exemplary effort with high testing rate, public health surveillance system and curfews to combat the pandemic. I believe Sri Lankan has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic quite successfully at a time when more economically stronger nations have struggled to combat the outbreak.

Q: What has Covid-19 taught governments across the globe?

A: The COVID-19 health crisis is making a huge impact globally; I believe this is a wake-up call for improving accelerated medical and scientific research collaboration and increasing transparency in scientific data sharing. Also, it is must be stated commercial gain during this pandemic state should not be allowed especially by multi-national companies who are aggressively racing for a vaccine, increasing PPE and COVID-19 testing productions.

I believe international medical and scientific research should be the norm and not the exception. We must all face this current crisis through unanimity. We will all get through this together, but also other current crisis which threatens humanity such as climate change.


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