Publish Date: 19.03.2020

Category: News from the University

The University of Ljubljana has taken the coronavirus situation very seriously. We are trying to keep our work processes running to the greatest extent possible and as a university we are working to ensure the wellbeing of society to the greatest extent possible. Many University of Ljubljana member institutions have come to the aid of Slovenian citizens, especially the Faculty of Medicine (UL MF) and the Faculty of Health Sciences (UL ZF).  

“Despite the unfavourable situation the Faculty is facing especially with regard to carrying out clinical rotations, and even though the situation is very serious, morale is high both among the students and the teachers, who are aware of the gravity of the situation and who are acting responsibly. Some of us regularly work from home twelve hours a day. We are addressing the situation in the country from a broader perspective, including through activities that are not part of our formal responsibilities,” explained Igor Švab, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, highlighting the fact that around seventy of their senior students are working at the government call centre, which provides people access to reliable information on the new coronavirus epidemic in Slovenia. The students are supervised and mentored by medical professionals and the representatives of different ministries. Since the call centre began operating, they have taken over 10,000 calls from citizens or over 1,100 calls a day. Certain dental medicine technical associates employed at the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine are providing specialist services for the Ljubljana University Medical Centre, even though the law allows them to work from home. Most of the work that clinical teachers at the faculty are currently performing focuses on providing healthcare services, even though instruction is still ongoing. The Dean also pointed out that work at the institutes must still continue without interruptions.

Therefore, the University of Ljubljana Rector, Igor Papič, adopted a resolution ordering the institutes operating under the aegis of the University of Ljubljana to continue to perform their activities and the employees at these institutes to perform their duties in the scope specified by their institute heads: The Institute of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine performs laboratory diagnostics tests, including COVID-19 tests, which means its activities are essential for containing and controlling the COVID-19 epidemic. The Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine also performs autopsies, coroner services and toxicology tests for the needs of the public health system. The Institute of Pathology at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine provides specialist pathology services. The Institute of Physiology Hyperbaric Medicine Centre at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine performs hyperbaric chamber treatment. “Considering the activities and procedures performed by the specialist institutes at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine, I believe the institutes’ operations are vital for providing healthcare services in Slovenia and are in our national interest. Thus their activities cannot be interrupted and the presence of employees at these institutes is vital. The work process is taking place following the instructions and under the supervision of the institutes’ heads,” the Rector pointed out.

Students at the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine and the Ljubljana Faculty of Health Sciences also responded to the Slovenian Red Cross’s requests for voluntary assistance in performing the tasks and activities in its Patient Treatment Unit operating at the field hospital. The students responded in large numbers, with forty volunteers at the Faculty of Medicine and forty-two at the Faculty of Health Sciences. “The coordination was extremely difficult, but the results are here,” reported Andrej Starc, Dean of the Ljubljana Faculty of Health Sciences. “Yesterday we also received a request from the Ljubljana University Medical Centre for our nursing and midwifery students to provide assistance in nursing patients. Of course we will respond to this request to the best of our ability. Recruiting and coordinating students willing to help is already well underway,” the Dean explained.

Other University of Ljubljana faculties are also joining in the steps we are taking during the coronavirus epidemic on a daily basis. Thus for example, the Ljubljana Faculty of Education has a psychosocial counselling service in place, where therapists can be reached via Skype or similar tools during the faculty’s lockdown. Counselling is for students and employees of the University of Ljubljana.

In the care of patients' health and well-being, a working group has been set up at the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Ljubljana (UL FFA) to keep up with the latest developments in COVID 19 therapy and the development of SARS-CoV-2 antiviral medicines. The working group includes prof. dr. Borut Štrukelj, prof. dr. Marko Anderluh, assoc. prof. dr. Tomaž Bratkovič, assoc. prof. dr. Mojca Lunder, assoc. prof. dr. Igor Locatelli and asst. dr. Lea Knez. The working group will prepare up to date reports based on independent, scientific and clinical results. It will transmit the reports to the lay and expert public, namely the Chamber of Pharmacies, the Slovenian Pharmaceutical Society and the Public Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Medicines and Medical Devices. In this way, they will try to contribute to better information and, above all, to effective therapy. UL FFA students will offer their help to pharmacies during the COVID-19 epidemic. UL FFA will act as an information hub and assist in connecting students to pharmacies.

The 4PDIH team, working under the auspices of the Telecommunications Laboratory of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the University of Ljubljana, has prepared an online tool "Pomoč na dlani" (Helping hand). The purpose of the tool is to identify as many free assistance organizations as possible and to connect them with those who need help, e.g. with the elderly who are unable to go to the store alone or to the pharmacy, or with parents who need to be present at work every day, but they have young children at home.

At the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Ljubljana, based on their knowledge and experience, proposals for the fight against coronavirus were prepared in seven areas: detection of infected, protection against infections, medical devices for the sick, contagious waste management, general measures for prevention of infections, monitoring, analysis and infection prediction, methods of communication during epidemic times.

Researchers at the Ljubljana Faculty of Electrical Engineering and the Ljubljana Faculty of Mechanical Engineering have set up R&D teams that are willing to participate in the development of ventilators. The Metrology and Quality Laboratory operating at the Department of Measurements and Robotics at the Ljubljana Faculty of Electrical Engineering is among the world’s leading laboratories specialising in the calibration of thermal imagers. These are special types of cameras that can be used for non-contact body temperature measurements and in the current situation the demand for them is growing rapidly.

The Ljubljana Veterinary Faculty has published recommendations for animal owners and set up a special e-mail for questions regarding coronavirus.

At the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering, University of Ljubljana, advise companies on the production of protective equipment. They examine the surface protection options for surfaces that people often touch.

The Ljubljana Faculty of Sport posted useful exercise advice on its website entitled “Z gibanjem proti koroni” (Fighting the Coronavirus through Exercise).

Through its “Participation Means Isolation” online messages, the Ljubljana School of Economics and Business highlights why it is so important to stay home now. Under the “SEB LU Helps” rubric, it offers its students and employees help in this new social reality that no one is used to. As Slovenia’s leading education and research institution in economics and business, its Centre of Business Excellence held a free webinar titled “Ali lahko gospodarstvo »zmrzne« brez ogrevanja?” (Can the Economy “Freeze” without Heating?) in cooperation with the school’s teaching staff, highlighting and discussing certain key economic areas, the understanding of which will form an extremely important basis for making decisions with both short-term and long-term implications.

The Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences created a video “Strah pred neznanim” (Fear of the Unknown) thematising the current situation. In it, professors Iztok Prezelj and Vlado Miheljak warn against excessive panicking, emphasising the importance of (self)protection and adhering to the measures introduced by competent institutions. The video is available on YouTube via this link and the faculty’s Facebook and Instagram profiles. Through its point, the Faculty of Social Sciences drew attention to certain risks and traps introduced by social media, which tend to substitute for in-person socializing even more in these circumstances, and also created a special video on the subject.

The Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana publishes a number of professional and scientific articles, personal reflections, infographics, which can help employees to work in a new working conditions.

“The University of Ljubljana was among the first to call for more concrete measures to contain the spread of the virus. In these circumstances, we have established numerous forms of distance learning with the help of our devoted employees. However, in view of the large number of additional activities taking place at our faculties, it is clear that as a socially responsible institution, we are also providing certain key services through our employees and students to support the operation of the Slovenian health system in this emergency situation and using various ways to help Slovenians deal with coronavirus,” added Papič.