“Our discussions with health organisations and the local associations in Geneva have intensified over the last few days, given the progression of the epidemic and the increasing burden on health actors” explains Patrick Wieland, head of mission for MSF in Switzerland. “We have put forward a proposal to share MSF’s expertise in preventing the transmission of epidemic diseases, through a partnership with the Swiss civil society and public services. In addition, two MSF medical specialists are already based with the University Hospital of Geneva (HUG) to share the organisation’s experience responding to other epidemics such as cholera, Ebola and dengue fever.” This shared experience will focus on the management of patients that have contracted Covid-19, as well as on how to organise medical teams and services in the hospital.
MSF will also provide logistical support to associations and the city services who assist marginalized people, the homeless, migrants and unaccompanied minors in Geneva. The focus will be to ensure that these groups’ reception and housing conditions are compliant with the standards of hygiene and social distancing aimed at limiting Covid-19 contamination. MSF is planning logistical assistance, including trainings for social workers and volunteers working in shelters (sleep-in) and other places of refuge. This will ensure that protective measures are followed during the distribution of basic necessities and food vouchers to around 1300 families in need.
As part of its relationship with the HUG’s emergency services, MSF has set up a mobile medical team to help strengthen the specific response to Covid-19 known as “CoviCare”. Under the coordination of the HUG, this team will provide assistance to people who have tested positive for Covid-19 but has not criteria for hospital admission and require a clinical follow up at home. The team will identify and refer complicated cases to the hospital.
Furthermore, Covid-19-related deaths represent an ordeal that is as painful for relatives and friends as it is complex for the professionals trying to avoid post-mortem transmission of the disease. In collaboration with the City of Geneva, MSF assessed current procedures in order to make recommendations to public and private mortal services.
“As an emergency humanitarian organisation, our priority is to provide medical assistance to the most vulnerable people around the world, sometimes within fragile health systems, says Reveka Papadopoulou, President of MSF’s operational center in Geneva. “Today, it’s the health system in Switzerland that is struggling, and we are keen to assist Swiss communities that have supported and hosted one of our headquarters for more than 40 years”
MSF teams are also working to maintain the healthcare activities they carry out around the world, in a context where travel restrictions and constraints on the movement of goods and people often threaten their continuation.
“Managing epidemics is at the core of what we do. Today all levels of MSF are impacted, bringing new challenges, and requiring even more collaboration, empathy and creativity to find solutions. We must adapt to necessary confinement and isolation, and we must also rethink our social bonds and ways of working, how to deliver our social mission and preserve our family, friends and colleagues. Solidarity is the only constant that will guide our action”, concludes Reveka Papadopoulou.
Médecins Sans Frontières is a medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency assistance in over 70 countries.The organisation is implementing the necessary prevention and isolation measures to avoid the spread of the virus within its projects and amongst teams and patients. The teams support responses to Covid-19 in consultation with the health authorities and according to the needs.
In Hong Kong, MSF is continuing to provide health education and mental health support activities for vulnerable groups.
In Italy, MSF teams are helping health authorities respond to the coronavirus pandemic. MSF staff are working in four hospitals in the province of Lodi, in Lombardy, which is the worst affected region in the country.
In France, in response to the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic, MSF is setting up activities this week to reinforce case detection and management among the most vulnerable populations in Paris and some departments of the Ile-de-France region.
In Belgium, MSF is implementing activities aimed at reinforcing Covid-19 case detection and management among the most vulnerable populations.
In Spain, MSF is in contact with the Ministry of Health to increase the capacity of hospitals as well as identify where new hospitals could be set up.
To follow MSF’s news related to Covid-19, visit msf.ch/covid19