They took samples from people suspected of having the coronavirus, gave people information, and worked in hospitals as attendants and orderlies. They also helped in laboratories and intensive and standard care units. Since the epidemic began, students of the MU Faculty of Medicine have dedicated tens of thousands of hours to volunteering and mandatory work ordered by the government. Many have continued to help as volunteers.
About 450 students enrolled in medical and non-medical programmes helped out, 279 of which were performing mandatory work duty. “At Brno’s two university hospitals alone students have worked nearly 25,000 hours. Elsewhere, at other medical facilities, they have also put in thousands of hours,” reports Vice-Dean for Development and Studies in General Medicine Petr Štourač.
Faculty Dean Martin Repko has commended MU students for their efforts, noting their substantial contribution to the operation of testing stations, call centres, and clinics and units at Brno’s university hospitals as well as at hospitals in the South Moravian, Zlín, Olomouc, and Vysočina Regions. “I would like to thank the members of the Students’ Chamber of the Academic Senate from our faculty and all students for their exceptional help during this situation,” the dean emphasised.
But students have been doing more than lending a helping hand. Mandatory work duty did not mean that they no longer had to study. “It wasn’t easy combining full-time work and long shifts and at the same time keeping up with my courses and studying for exams,” stated Natálie Antalová, the chair of the Students’ Chamber. “But the situation has given us the opportunity to get first-hand experience in medical practice. Two months of fighting this epidemic have really taught us a lot about how to talk with patients and about what they go through when they are truly frightened,” she added.
At the MU Faculty of Medicine, volunteer activities were already being coordinated in the second week of March, even before mandatory work duty was required. In mid-March the Government of the Czech Republic adopted a resolution on ensuring healthcare services by healthcare service providers and on ensuring the activities of public health bodies during the state of emergency, which imposed the duty to work on students of general medicine, general nursing, and paramedical programmes. On April 9, the duty was expanded to cover dental students and students of other non-medical programmes.
Many students volunteered in regional hospitals and were praised for their efforts by Councilman Milan Vojta of the South Moravian Region. “We are grateful for this help; we have managed the situation thanks in part to Masaryk University students,” he stated, adding that people could be assured that these future doctors and other medical workers would become high-quality healthcare providers.
The entire Masaryk University community joined in on the effort to combat the coronavirus crisis. Most MU activities were organised through the volunteer centre established as part of the MUNI Helps initiative. It has coordinated the work of more than 4,600 volunteers, most of whom are students, either from MU or other universities. Volunteers have provided aid to more than 2,000 individuals and dozens of institutions. They are still helping senior citizens with their shopping, providing babysitting and tutoring services, and distributing face masks.