New robots treat Italian patients so doctors can keep their distance

UNTV News   •   April 2, 2020   •   405

Help has finally arrived at the Circolo hospital in Varese, on the frontline dealing with enormous numbers of patients in the area hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak. And it has come in the form of six robots.

The child-size machines, with large blinking eyes, work in some of the most infectious wards. One of them has been named Tommy after the son of the head of the intensive care unit.

“Using my abilities medical staff can be in touch with the patients without direct contact,” Tommy the robot explained.

The northern region of Lombardy, centred on the financial capital Milan, has accounted for 43% of Italy’s known coronavirus cases and 59% of deaths. Varese lies sixty kilometres (37 miles) north of Milan and the Circolo hospital has been under attack from the virus for weeks.

“The idea was born when we thought about the risk of infection and we saw the situation of isolation of our patients,” explained the Director of High Intensity Medicine at the hospital, Francesco Dentali.

“To avoid the risk of infection without increasing the risk for the patient we thought the robot could be a good idea to take care of our patient,” he said.

“The risk of infection is high also with protection so all the staff, doctors and nurses are happy because robots can help in avoiding the risk of infection,” Dentali said.

Robots enter rooms where coronavirus patients are being treated and remain inside the infectious wards. They are being used in a number of ways to augment the work of the doctors and nurses and help in several important areas; namely to reduce some of the work load from exhausted medical teams and most importantly cut down the number of times there is direct contact with the patients. This also reduces the number of times staff have to put on and take off protective clothing, saving time and equipment but more importantly cutting down the risk of contamination.

“The other advantage for the patient and medical staff is also from the point of view of the organisation of the hospital. It allows us to use less protective clothing like masks and overalls which at this time are in scarce supply,” Gianni Bonelli Director of Varese Circolo hospital said.

The robots can relay back vital information from patients taken from machines reading vital statistics. Medical staff can also communicate with patients via the robots and vice versa. Medical staff say the robots allow patients to be more closely monitored, more time is spent monitoring their recovery and highlight quickly any problems that crop up.

The Italian national federation of doctors, surgeons and orthodontists said last week that 46 of their colleagues had died so far, many of them family doctors in northern towns and cities. Circolo hospital hopes their robots can cut down that risk.

The Circolo hospital is the main hospital in a regional area of responsibility that includes a further 6 hospitals and works with some 5,000 staff. The safety of their medical teams is of paramount importance.

So far in Lombardy, at least two hospitals became vehicles of contamination, with patients infecting medical staff who then spread the disease as they travelled around their communities before a stringent lockdown was imposed.

At a national level, 4,268 health workers – or 0.4 percent of the total – had contracted the virus as of March 20, according to the National Health Institute.

Apart from the safety issue, the hospital hopes coronavirus patients will be left less alone.

“You have to explain to the patients what is the aim and the function of the robot. The first reaction is not positive especially for old patients but if you explain to the patients what is your aim the patient is happy because he or she can speak with the doctor,” Dentali said. (Reuters)

(Production: Alex Fraser, Cristiano Corvino, Eleanor Biles)

Metro Manila to likely transition to GCQ after May 31 —Palace

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 28, 2020

Metro Manila has a possibility to transition to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) from Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) after May 31, according to the Malacañang.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said there is a chance that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions might ease in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) held a meeting on Wednesday (May 27) to determine if the MECQ should continue after May 31.

“Chances are we will, in fact, be transitioning to GCQ in Metro Manila, according to the chief implementer and the DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government] Secretary,” Roque said in a statement.

The Metro Manila Council (MMC) is also recommending to the IATF to put the National Capital Region under GCQ.

Once Metro Manila transitioned to GCQ, Roque said public transportation will resume operations but will have limited capacity.

He also appealed to the private and public sectors to finalize their work scheme where 50% will resume in worksites and 50% will work from home.

“We are appealing to both private and public sectors to ensure at least 50-50 workforce,” he said. –AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Mandaluyong City beefs up rapid testing after COVID-19 infects 277 tricycle drivers

Marje Pelayo   •   May 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Mandaluyong City government cannot decide yet on whether or not to allow tricycle drivers to operate come June 1.

This, after 277 of the 3,115 tricycle drivers who underwent rapid testing were confirmed positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Mandaluyong City Health Office is continuously conducting rapid tests among 7,000 tricycle drivers in the city to ensure their safety and the safety of their passengers.

Those who were infected are now under isolation in the city’s quarantine facility while waiting for the confirmatory tests using the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

“Nagko contact tracing pa ho kami kasi scattered po ito eh. Hindi po ito kasi by area. So mina-map out pa po namin kung saan sila marami (We are doing contact tracing because these are scattered. It is not just in one area. So we are mapping out where the most number of cases are),” said Dr. Alexander Sta, Maria of the city health office.

The LGU, meanwhile, clarified that the increase in the number of confirmed cases in the city is a result of the mass testing which allowed for the immediate tracking of COVID-19 probable patients and their prompt isolation to curb further spread.

“This is coordinated kasi meron po tayong in-charge sa buong TODA. Then before po ito ni-launch, na-meeting po ang lahat ng presidente ng kanilang mga TODA so binigyan po sila ng schedule (This is a coordinated effort. There is someone in charge of the whole TODA. Before this was launched, we held a meeting with their respective presidents and all of them were given a schedule),” Sta. Maria added.

The city government will test jeepney drivers next once the tests among tricycle drivers is completed. MNP (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

House panel approves P1.5-T fund to create jobs amid COVID-19 pandemic

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 28, 2020

The House Defeat COVID-19 Committee has approved a bill seeking to provide a P1.5-trillion fund to create sustainable jobs amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

House Bill 6709 or the proposed “COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act of 2020″ is set to fund infrastructure projects in rural areas to help curb unemployment amid the pandemic.

The CURES Act of 2020 shall also be undertaken with the “Balik Probinsya Bagong Pag-asa Program” and the immediate funding of CURES projects shall target the construction of health centers, school buildings, vocational learning centers, as well as improving fish ports and trading centers at barangay levels.

The House Bill is expected to be sponsored on Thursday (May 28) for its 2nd reading approval in the plenary on Thursday afternoon. It will have to go through a 3rd and final reading before it can hurdle the House.

Meanwhile, representatives of other government agencies such as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) also endorsed the approval of the proposed CURES Act of 2020. –AAC

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