The coronavirus emergency will only be resolved by cooperation: this is something obvious to Martin Tkáč, a fourth-year student at the Jessenius Faculty of Medicine in Martin and the coordinator of medical student volunteers, who are all helping as best they can. When schools in Slovakia closed as a precaution due to the new coronavirus, Martin decided to help. And when he couldn't find what he was looking for, he decided to create it.

29. 03. 2020 14.15 hod.
By: From: CU Public Relations Office

When on 14 March he and his brother were watching the situation develop and the reported 14,000 cases in Italy, he decided to see how he could help, perhaps by joining a team of volunteers. When he found out that there was no such thing, he began to act: “I tried to write a status calling on my classmates to volunteer. The next day, I had 35 students and I informed our dean that we were ready to help at any time.”

Cooperation is behind everything

From thirty-five students and one coordinator, there soon formed a network of people who helped each other and created cooperative teams wherever they could. The National Centre of Health Information also helped; thanks to them the number of volunteers increased to 93, and they also connected Martin’s group with 148 fellow students from the Faculty of Medicine in Bratislava. “There were also offers to help hospitals across the Zilina region, where students work at entrance filters. What they do there is filter which patients go into the hospital, who will have a sample taken, and so on,” says Tkáč. In addition, students from the Slovak Medical University and the Pavol Jozef Šafárik University, under their own coordinators, decided to join in. Students studying at Czech faculties who were currently in Slovakia also decided to help. “Upon the initiative of students from the Faculty of Medicine, we are creating a platform for easier inclusion in the volunteer work list. The skilful people from, backed by Perry Talents, Virtual Medicine, and Campus Cowork, have taken the lead on this, and the platform is provided by Solved,” he adds.

A telephonist, a maker of solutions, and a translator

The work of these volunteers is really varied. In an effort to inform the Slovak public as much as possible about the “invisible enemy”, as Martin calls it, students have also been involved in translating texts from English. "There are relatively few studies on it, and they tend to be in English. We look for them research databases and translate them under the guidance of experts who then check them,” he explains. In addition to the activities already mentioned, students help at call centres due to the lack of operators. They provide callers with information on what steps to take based on their symptoms or when they returned home from abroad. “In the first few days, there were 500 calls per operator. Due to time constraints, students received online training at the faculty and could then start helping,” says Martin. Some students assist with disinfection in the hospital departments by mixing disinfectant solutions in the pharmacy. Others take patients' temperatures in triage (the initial assessment of a patient's condition) and determine their medical case history.

Whoever wants to help still can

Martin’s list of volunteers has 220 students, but the Facebook group Dobrovoľníci LF now has over 1300 students who are interested in the situation. “Given that the situation can develop in any way, volunteers are still in demand. Until now, becoming involved was done through a coordinator. Since Thursday 26 March volunteers have been able to sign up through the new platform We are looking to fill all medical positions, including caregivers, midwives, and social workers,” Martin adds.