Bristol-Myers Squibb Germany Colleague Joins the COVID-19 Fight
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Munich, Germany, people from all over the world gathered at the Theresienwiese for the world famous Oktoberfest. Today, the massive tent for the crowds is there for another purpose – COVID testing. And that is where BMS Germany’s Florian Gilg, medical advisor, Oncology, has been volunteering his services as a physician since late last summer.
“Before the pandemic, I had already been donating my time as a part-time on-call physician with the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians in Bavaria,” Gilg said. "When they asked if I could take on shifts at the COVID-19 test center at the Theresienwiese, I accepted immediately.”
He was able to do that, in part, because of the company’s support for colleagues with medical training who volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I wanted to help as much as I could. Thanks to the flexibility of the company and my manager, the decision was very easy for me,” he said.
The testing center has gone through a steady expansion, a clear indication of just how great the need is among the local population. What began with a few inflatable emergency tents in March 2020, when the pandemic started in Germany, expanded during the second wave of the virus to include a tent about the same size as the Schützenfestzelt, which was built to accommodate thousands of people during Oktoberfest.
Before the end of 2020, Gilg said, about 3,000 people were tested every day. To date, he has performed a total of 8,000 test swabs.
At the beginning of 2021, some of Gilg's tasks changed – fortunately. “Recently, I have been part of mobile vaccination teams that go to patients," he explained.
Gilg often logs 20 hours of volunteer time a week. Following company protocol, he quarantines for 14 days after working among patients.
"From infants to elderly people, from travel returnees to those who had come into contact with someone with COVID symptoms, the people who come to us, and their motivations, are quite diverse,” Gilg said, adding that many frequently share detailed descriptions about why they are being tested and their gratitude for the free testing.
To further support the health service, Gilg now also calls patients with their test results.
"The fact that vaccines are now available is a great relief given the current situation,” he said. “There is a real spirit of optimism."