Three OMT members remember a one-of-a-kind year. A year that brought them out of the relative anonymity of their work environment and pushed them to the center of social attention. “It’s funny how people suddenly recognize me on the street.”
He added, “It has been confirmed to me that there is a patient with Corona virus in the Netherlands.” With these words and the remark that then Minister of Medical Affairs Bruno Bruins received during a live TV broadcast, the Corona era began exactly a year ago for the Netherlands.
The biggest one
Alarm bells started ringing much earlier at Marion Copmans, professor of virology at Erasmus Medical Center. Since the beginning of January 2020, a number of virologists have feared that this new virus will occasionally appear The biggest one It could be.
“In January, we already discussed a lot within the outbreak management team (OMT) what was happening in China and what this could mean for the Netherlands. At the time there was still a lot of uncertainty, but it was clear that it could It becomes a large eruption. Clears quickly. “
Infection in Germany
Kopmans became very concerned when the first cases of coronavirus were diagnosed in Germany in early March, and her German colleagues told her that the virus appears to spread just as easily as the common cold.
“Yeah, I was really shocked,” she recalls. “How will this spread further, you wonder, what is the impact of this virus?”
OMT Koopmans, Illy and Hertogh review the first year of the Corona crisis in the Netherlands
Until February last year, most Dutch had not heard of OMT, a changing group of scientists called by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) when an outbreak of a highly contagious disease threatens.
Meanwhile, OMT’s advice affects the fortunes of the whole Netherlands and many OMT members have achieved the status of well-known Dutch, due to frequent appearances on talk shows and news programs.
Suddenly the political influence
Pediatrician Carolee Elle joined OMT at the end of March. “Never a day like this year it was a crazy rollercoaster. And a huge educational process. Before that, as president of the Dutch Pediatric Association, I had only limited experience appearing in the media. That changed very quickly and very much. What a member says OMT, it suddenly had a political effect as well. So what you say, your choice of words, you weigh that very carefully each time. ”
Ely stresses the role of the Operations Management Team as an advisory body: “Our influence has always been viewed as advisory. It’s an important role and a huge value rightly attached to this advice. But the government hasn’t received everything from OMT, and that’s okay too. Ultimately, broad political and social choices must be made.” .
Get a feel for the lights
Marion Copmans had to get used to suddenly appearing in the spotlight, saying: “I suffer from people who suddenly recognize me on the street, and also people write a lot about you on social media. There is a heated discussion going on right now. It’s okay. But threatening people. Because what they represent is really overrated. “
However, the professor sees public appearances during the Corona crisis as part of her work: “What our research entails demonstrates that science is not always black and white, and certainly during this epidemic it is also accompanied by a progressive vision. I would love to do that and this is important in addition to fundamental work.”
Loss of children’s interests
Carolee Elle also had a strong reaction on social media: “Especially at the beginning of this year, when I said it was better not to open schools yet,” he recalls.
“It was said at the time that I was wasting children’s interests, and that really affected me. Because the well-being and health of children and youth is exactly what makes me so difficult and keeps me awake when things go wrong.”
Silent disaster in nursing homes
Sis Hertog is an internist and professor of geriatrics at the University of Amsterdam Medical Center. He has been a member of OMT since the start of the Corona crisis, but has not been listened to well, he says.
“The focus was on acute care, while there was a silent disaster of enormous magnitude unfolding in nursing homes. Initially, there was a lack of understanding of the complexity of caring for people in nursing homes and other long-term care settings. It can be compared to that of a hospital.” .
The first wave is merciless
Herzog can still get emotional just how ruthlessly the first wave of Corona struck nursing and care homes and how serious the lack of equipment and preventive measures is, resulting in many residents being imprisoned for long periods.
“People who subsequently died without being able to say goodbye properly, and the speed with which this death sometimes accompanied it, caused very deep wounds. For residents and their families, but also for care workers who are totally committed to people in that last stage of life.”
More than two hundred OMT recommendations
We are now a full year and over two hundred OMT recommendations have passed. But at the moment, members don’t seem to have finished their weekly virtual meetings, with at least 25 participants at a time.
“We’re all used to doing it digitally,” says Sees Hertog. “But sometimes it’s also complicated, because you can’t talk to each other afterward. While these are the moments that often need you. But even this way, it’s special that you spend a lot of time together and you are gradually gaining more. Knowledge and understanding of each other’s experience. “
It takes a lot of time and energy
Pediatrician Elle also expects the weekly meetings at OMT to continue: “I think it is still important to provide good advice to the government. At the same time, we all look forward to a moment when that is no longer necessary.”
Also from a practical point of view: “They are long weekly meetings, with many pieces to attend. It takes a lot of time and energy. I am also a regular pediatrician at a regional hospital in Tell and have my work there. That has to continue.”
Marion Copmans looks to the future with mixed feelings: “Vaccines are going to make a really big difference, but concerns about new mutations remain. When we were all ready for some expansion, you have to go again. You should advise, ‘Watch out.’ I thought this was really horrible. It’s no different, biology is a strong opponent. “
Nice moment in a turbulent year
Koopmans don’t have to think too much about asking what the good moment was for her in the violent last year: “My parents were vaccinated recently. Both are 92 years old, but still mobile enough to be able to go to GGD on their own … I was still in China when I heard that they had been vaccinated. I thought it was a really great moment, and then I felt very relieved. ”