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Diana Ghazaryan

Armenia: Hundreds of Medical Workers Test Positive for Coronavirus; One Death

248 doctors, 510 staff nurses and 191 critical care head nurses tested positive for the coronavirus in Armenia between March 1 and June 26.

According to the country’s Ministry of Health, as of June 26, 12 doctors, 20 nurses and 6 head nurses were receiving hospital treatment for the virus.

Gayaneh Gasparyan, who heads the Gyumri Infectious Diseases Hospital, was hospitalized on June 16 and is still receiving inpatient treatment for the virus.

Gasparyan was infected with the coronavirus at the hospital while on duty. "I felt weak. I had a fever and a cough. I was sweating. The nature of my work is such that you can't guess when and how you get infected. You deal with patients. It's true that I was wearing the gear, so I don’t understand how it happened,” she told Hetq.

Gasparyan now feels better but remembers those first days with dread. "It's a crazy pain. It's an awfully bad situation. I've been through it and I don't want anyone to go through it.”

She urges the citizens to be vigilant and to follow the anti-epidemic safety to protect their own health and that of medical workers.

"You can't imagine how difficult it is for doctors, nurses, paramedics, everyone to work. In case of an emergency, they work in a crisis. It is impossible to work in a hospital and not get sick. You can be as careful as you want,” says Gasparyan.

In addition to Gasparyan, an employee at the hospital’s laboratory was also infected with the coronavirus. Hospital director Astghik Beybutyan says the person is self-isolating at home.

 "Both of our infected employees became infected while working. They probably get tired, drop their guard and get infected,” says Beybutyan.

Infected medical workers hospitalized or self-isolating

As of June 26, 295 doctors and staff nurses and 96 head nurses in medical centers throughout the country had tested positive for the virus.

To date, one medical worker has died from coronavirus. "We already have one victim from the medical staff, that's why we emphasize that the protection of the medical staff is very important," Armenian Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan said on June 23.

Yerevan sees highest number of medical worker infections 

Most of the infected doctors are from Yerevan medical centers - 63 doctors, 111 nurses and 78 head nurses.

Official statistics show that hospital nurses are at greatest risk for contracting the virus.

Yerevan has registered the greatest number of infected medical workers to date: 63 doctors and 111 nurses.

Next on the list is Kotayk Province: 19 doctors and 34 nurses.

Armavir follows with 8 doctors and 15 doctors.

According to official statistics, Vayots Dzor is the only province in Armenia where no doctor, medical worker or other employee of the medical center has been infected with the coronavirus so far.

In addition to Yerevan, Kotayk, Armavir and Shirak provinces stand out in terms of the number of infected and self-isolated doctors.

Hrazdan Medical Center hit hard

There is a significant number of infected, hospitalized, and self-isolating employees at the Hrazdan Medical Center. As of June 26, there were 15 infected doctors, 30 nurses and 6 head nurses. Twelve of them are receiving hospital treatment, and 35 doctors and four head nurses are self-isolating.

Hrazdan Medical Center Deputy Director for Hospital Affairs Ara Simonyan argues it impossible to state that the medical workers were infected while performing their duties since they do not have statistics that the employees who sampled the coronavirus and worked in the isolation ward were infected with the coronavirus.

Ara Simonyan claims that doctors are safer within the confines of a hospital setting.

"Doctors work in the risk zone all the time. They can be infected due to their work, but I think the probability of a doctor's infection in the hospital is less than in another environment. Doctors wears gowns and gloves in the hospital and their work environment is disinfected,” he says.

Simonyan says that while the medical center has infected and self-isolating medical staff, work continues as normal.

According to Ani Chilingaryan, Kotayk Provincial Government Acting Head of the Health and Social Security Department, the health status of infected medical workers in local hospitals is stable.

 "At the moment, we do not have medical workers in critical condition. They have   personal relations outside the hospital, so we can't say with full certainty they were infected in the hospital while on duty. Moreover, they are safer inside the medical institution because everyone wears masks. Being a medical worker, being in the hospital, they understand they must follow all the rules,” Chilingaryan says.

She told Hetq that there is no shortage of medical workers in Kotayk Province.

In addition to infected employees of medical centers, as of June 26, 93 doctors, 170 nurses and 90 head nurses were self-isolating.

Doctors at Yerevan’s St. Gregory the Illuminator Medical Center, which has the largest number of Covid-19 beds, have also been infected. As of June 26, nine doctors, 13 nurses and five head nurses at the hospital were infected.  They are all self-isolating.

Eight doctors, 19 nurses and ten head nurses at Yerevan’s Astghik Medical Center were listed as infected as of June 26.

Staffers at mental health centers also infected

There are infected doctors in mental health centers as well. Now, one doctor, ten nurses and 21 head nurses are infected at Yerevan’s Avan Mental Health Center.

According to Liana Torosyan, Head of the Infectious Disease Department at the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in order for the medical workers not to be infected with the coronavirus, they must wear personal protective equipment and follow the safety rules. Liana Torosyan says these are the best preventive measures.

“Doctors are also people and have their own personal contacts. Of course, they have job responsibilities and the question of whether a medical worker was infected while performing their professional duties is relative. There are many cases of medical workers who had no contact with their medical institution, became infected at home. They had no symptoms, were invisible carriers, and brought the virus to their workplace,” says Torosyan.

She told Hetq that despite various difficulties, including work overloads, so far there has been no shortage of medical workers in medical institutions to serve people infected with the coronavirus.

Photos: Narek Aleksanyan

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