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Apple of Inspiration Award for the government call centre for coronavirus

The President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor awarded the government call centre for information on the coronavirus the Apple of Inspiration Award for its significant contribution to life as normal as possible in the difficult times of dealing with the epidemic of the new virus. The president's recognition of the importance of the call centre's selfless and professional work was welcomed by all participants who helped callers with reliable and up-to-date answers. The call centre is concluding its work today.

The call centre opened on 9 March and was set up by the Government Communication Office in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, the National Institute of Public Health, the Clinic for Infectious Diseases and the Ministry of Public Administration to help residents find reliable information about the new coronavirus. To date, the call centre has received over 50,000 calls. The calls were answered by senior year students of the Medical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana. During this time, a total of 66 students participated, as they had to continue their studies despite working in the call centre. They were successful in both and some students also graduated during the epidemic.

The main goal of all participants in the call centre was to provide each caller with the right answer in an understandable way. Up-to-date and professional information was provided by a well-coordinated team of consultants from various institutions and professional fields. Two doctors from the Clinic for Infectious Diseases, representatives of the National Institute of Public Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Civil Protection of the Republic of Slovenia and the Government Communication Office were available to the students for consultation. Given the government's current measures to curb the spread of coronavirus and mitigate the effects of the epidemic, representatives of the Labour Inspectorate, the Police, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport and the Financial Administration of the Republic of Slovenia occasionally participated in the call centre as well. Remote assistance and answers were also provided by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology and the Ministry of Infrastructure.

The call centre advisers were solving a wide variety of issues and real, individual situations of citizens. Initially, the questions were mainly related to dilemmas regarding the symptoms of possible infection and treatment in the case of COVID-19 disease. However, the content of the questions quickly spread to instructions on the possibility of movement when municipal borders were closed, on aid measures and labour legislation during the epidemic, many turned to the call centre for guidance on how to deal with the reopening of shops and restaurants and what protective equipment is needed. Most of the questions related to border crossings and possible quarantine, as well as recommendations regarding the wearing of masks. The call centre also offered psychological assistance when needed, as a psychiatry specialist from the University Psychiatric Clinic Ljubljana was always present at the centre.

Upon receiving the award, prof. dr. Mojca Matičič from the Clinic for Infectious Diseases of the University Medical Centre Ljubljana pointed out in her speech that she is extremely proud of her students who were willing to selflessly help people. She said that this award will be an inspiration for all of us and especially for the future guardians of health, who have proven to be very compassionate, professional and trustworthy.

Student Anja: “I gladly accepted the invitation to participate in the call centre. At first, I was a little nervous, because in addition to the knowledge of medicine, it was necessary to gain knowledge from many other fields, such as law, social rights and the economy, education. The feeling that we could help people who were frightened or insecure is really good. I will miss work and company in the call centre. I am grateful to the whole team, the experience is invaluable."

Student Tadeja: “I am leaving the call centre with positive feelings, despite the fact that the work was sometimes quite demanding and stressful. Sometimes we didn’t have proper answers, but we subsequently searched for them and called people back. The experience was great, I expanded my knowledge and met great people. The feeling that Slovenians know how to unite and help is really good. I am glad I was a part of this story. "

It is because of the involvement, cooperation and dedication of all of the above that the call centre story is a true success story.