Over the last few days, the University of Talca has carried out a number of actions for the benefit of the community of the Maule Region, in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. The initiatives -which are part of the clear mission of a State-owned university to collaborate with the local community- have been developed in several fields with the aim of reducing the harmful effects of COVID-19 on the population and environment.
Masks for public health staff
UTalca, along with its peers, the Universities of Concepción, La Frontera, Los Lagos, and Austral, is participating in an initiative that will allow the 3D printing of 100,000 masks to be provided to health professionals at public hospitals. This endeavor, known as FABTEC COVID-19, which also includes the participation of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge, and Innovation and a team from the Architects Association, worked on the adaptation of various European models of this face shield. For further information, please visit the following website (in Spanish): http://www.coronavirus.utalca.cl/fabtec.html.
The institution made available nine 3D printers, four from the Department of Engineering – located at the Curicó campus -, as well as four printers belonging to the School of Architecture, Music and Design, and one from the Departments of Psychology and Education Sciences. In addition, and internally, students and faculty of the same departments will join as volunteers to work the printers in various shifts and, thus, achieve maximum production.
Online testing and orientation
Along the same line, Utalca, through the National Center for Health Information Systems (CENS by its acronym in Spanish), developed an online evaluation method that allows the user to perform an autotest that detects symptoms compatible with the coronavirus. This will allow people to clear their doubts before heading towards health facilities. The initiative is supported and coordinated by the hospitals of Curicó and Talca, which will also host it on their respective websites to expand their reach to the entire population.
The online evaluation method, available (in Spanish) at http://www.coronavirus.utalca.cl/testcovid19.html, first requests a series of data such as location, national identification number (RUT by its acronym in Spanish), or age, and then asks five questions regarding the symptomatology. Upon taking the online test, people will automatically receive a message with information about their health status, as well as advise on whether or not to head to a healthcare facility.
Former Italian Hospital
In addition, the Academic Council of the University of Talca placed the facilities of the former Italian Hospital, now under the auspices of its school of medicine, at the disposal of the health authorities. It is a space of approximately 5,000 square meters where the Institution will eventually implement a multispecialty secondary hospital open to the community.
This action was well received by the regional authorities, who confirmed that they will make use of the facility in case of a peak of the disease. “The former Italian Hospital will be refurbished with certain improvements, not the ones originally planned, which would have had a cost of approximately US$1.4 million. This new renovation will have a significantly lower cost, and will be ready as soon as possible with a capacity of approximately 200 beds,” said Intendant Pablo Milad.
The rector of UTalca, Alvaro Rojas, explained the motivation of the University. “We want to contribute, as a State-owned university, from our social role to the regional community in these times of health crisis facing the country. We hope this will contribute to the plans developed by the Ministry of Health to deal with the coronavirus. Our institution is committed to people’s health and safety and to that end we will make all the necessary efforts, so that our region has autonomous capacities to solve the crisis,” he said.
Provision of diagnostic equipment to the Regional Hospital
Meanwhile, the Microbiology Division of the Department of Health Sciences of the University of Talca provided the Talca Regional Hospital (HRT by its acronym in Spanish) a thermocycler device, which will allow doubling its capacity for diagnosis, along with the assistance from its faculty to set it up. This will enable testing for a greater number of patients suspected of having COVID-19. This is the second device operating at the Maule health center and it is a very important asset because, up until a few days ago, there were only reference laboratories in Santiago and Concepción.
In this regard, the deputy medical director of the Talca Regional Hospital, Dr. Teresa Brito, highlighted the action taken by UTalca. “This equipment, along with the technical assistance, have been provided to aid the health sector and the people of the Maule Region, to increase the number of professionals to run the test. This is what is needed today, a joint effort, hopefully from all sectors, not only public, but also from all the institutions -both public and private- that have the means to help. This aid is welcomed, since it contributes to join efforts to improve the diagnosis and everything we can do to achieve a greater control of this pandemic,” she stressed.
The technical director of the Laboratory of the Talca Regional Hospital, Carolina Díaz, also valued the contribution made. “It gives us tremendous support in terms of the amount of results we can provide to patients, as it is a priority in terms of reducing the waiting and delivery time of the results,” she said.
For further information, visit http://www.coronavirus.utalca.cl/