Volunteers from Calgary’s Chinese community have begun helping people around the world take care of themselves during COVID-19.
Doctors on the frontlines in Wuhan are sharing their knowledge through a blog that Lucia Liu, a Calgary high school teacher, helped create.
The goal, Liu said, was to reduce pressure on the healthcare system, and offer help to the Chinese community who don’t know what COVID-19 precautions to take.
“We have experienced what happened in Wuhan from frontline doctors in China. Now, those doctors provide help for people in Calgary and in Canada,” said Liu.
“We want the information in China to match the criteria that is in Alberta and Canada. We have doctors and nurses in our team to confirm the right protocols.”
Breaking information barriers
People can ask medical questions to doctors who are volunteers in Liu’s blog.
“Certain people have fevers and have certain symptoms, but they’re not sure if they have [COVID-19] or not, and they don’t want to go to the emergency room at the hospital,” said Liu.
Liu and other volunteers have built a database on her blog that holds information on COVID-19, which is translated between English and Chinese.
So far, 20,000 people from places like Italy and the U.S. have viewed the questions being answered by doctors from Canada and China on Liu’s blog.
“A lot of people don’t really have strong English skills to understand what news [about COVID-19] the government is talking about. You can imagine how many people are anxious and panicking, and how many people don’t know what’s going on.”
The volunteer group connects people and doctors via the app WeChat.
“All Chinese people are on WeChat. It’s sort of like the Facebook in China. Because Facebook isn’t allowed in China, we use our own domestic tool,” she said.
Liu calls her blog a “free, remote online consultation medical team.”
The blog runs every day for 24 hours and consists of approximately 30 doctors, nurses and psychologists from China and Canada. These practitioners share information on various topics related to COVID-19.
Liu helps moderate four blogs, which hold up to 500 people, making their capacity for people with questions to be 2,000 at a time.
Not a cure, but a remedy
“We cannot provide online diagnosis and medical treatments, of course. But we can share knowledge and let people know how they can be safer and have better clarity,” said Dr. Shuo Zhang, a Chinese medicine practitioner in Calgary and volunteer doctor with Liu’s blog.
The blog mainly focuses on sharing information to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he said.
“Doctors provide online seminars, and all people can watch videos and listen to what doctors talk about with links that we share. We are a bridge between China and North America,” said Dr. Zhang.
“Doctors in China use Chinese herbs to help people in their treatment, but they cannot provide treatment online. Instead, they provide [recipes for] herbal tea formulas to help boost people’s immune system and prevent infection.”
One symptom of COVID-19 that can be dealt with over WeChat is stress. Many people can’t see their personal psychologist, so they have those professionals available.
“There is a lot of one-on-one sessions with psychologists in our group,” said Zhang.
“We also let people know what time they should go to the clinic or go see a doctor. With this kind of information, they feel much better.”
Kan can’t complain
June Kan, a member of Calgary’s Chinese community, said she has found guidance with the information on the WeChat blogs.
“I want to share my most sincere gratitude to the Doctors on WeChat from Wuhan and [the rest of] China for the detailed knowledge they have provided,” said Kan.
“They tell us what to eat to improve our immune systems, and also ways on how to monitor ourselves for symptoms. This is especially important to Chinese people with a language barrier,” she said.
She also believes that WeChat has been more effective than the Alberta government in sharing information about COVID-19.
“I have friends who called 811 and have waited for many hours. I don’t think these services are enough, especially for seniors,” Kan said.
“Nobody is going to go to the emergency if it’s not necessary. Instead, they’re taking herbal teas recommended by doctors in China.
“All my friends that I know, without exception, has benefitted [from doctors on WeChat].”