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Young Damascus Doctors Are on the Pandemic’s Front Lines in Hospitals and Patients’ Homes

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During the first wave of the coronavirus, those responsibilities fell upon senior graduates who preferred to keep their older professors away from the intensive care unit and emergency room, since Covid-19’s risk of causing death increases with age.

“I think we did the right thing,” Zamzam said. He added that the residency system in general puts responsibility on residents so they can learn to independently handle patients.

Senior doctors and supervisors were consulted by telephone or in person when needed.

“We wouldn’t have been able to cover patients’ needs without resident doctors, pressure was big on them,” said Mohamed Nobough Al Awa, the former dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Damascus University.

Many Doctors Died

Still, at least 70 doctors died of Covid-19 in Damascus, according to the Damascus Doctors Association. “We lost a large number of experienced doctors and compensating for this loss will take a generation,” Al Awa said. A few professors who contracted the virus survived, he said.

Hussein Al-Mohammed, the former head of Assad University Hospital, was among the few who survived a coronavirus infection. But he has been in intensive care for weeks due to coronavirus-related complications, according to the hospital’s Facebook page. A new hospital director was named last week.

The pause of “cold surgeries” for months during the pandemic’s first wave resulted in junior doctors not learning how to do such procedures, Al Awa said. Non-emergency surgeries have since resumed, though. Assad University Hospital announced earlier this month that it had stopped taking patients with Covid-19 to focus on “proper functioning of the education and training process for graduate students.”

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During the pandemic’s peak in Damascus in July and August, hospitals were overwhelmed with the number of coronavirus patients, with their capacity and infrastructure already weakened by nine years of war.

“Those were very difficult days,” Ibrahim said. “Almost all of Damascus got sick at once.”

To take pressure off public hospitals, a group of young residents started an initiative to help patients with less serious coronavirus cases get treatment at home.

‘Sanitize It’

The initiative started in March under the name عقمها, “sanitize it,” to encourage Damascus residents to use hand sanitizer and to disinfect public places to fight the virus.

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