The Czech Philharmonic’s March 25 online concert will benefit healthcare professionals

Beethoven’s Eroica symphony will raise funds for psychosocial support for heroic but overburdened hospital staff.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 24.03.2021 12:56 (updated on 24.03.2021)

The Czech Philharmonic is dedicating its next concert to all healthcare workers. It’s not just a symbolic gesture. Viewers can donate money online to directly provide timely and professional psychosocial support for overworked health professionals.

The concert on Thursday, March 25, at 8:15 p.m. will be broadcast by Czech Television’s Art channel (ČT art) and will live stream on the Czech Philharmonic’s official Facebook and YouTube channels.

The highlight of the concert will be Beethoven’s Third Symphony. Fittingly for the evening, this is the Eroica, or Heroic symphony. The program also includes Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and a concerto by Max Bruch featuring Danish violin virtuoso Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider. Semjon Bychkov will conduct the orchestra, and Marek Eben will host the evening.

Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider. (Photo: Hana Sedláčková)
Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider. (Photo: Hana Sedláčková)

While the pandemic is starting to slow down, hospitals in the Czech Republic remain near their capacity and ICU units are still filled with patients needing critical care, and healthcare professionals will remain on the front lines for months to come.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare workers have turned operating rooms and ophthalmology departments into Covid-19 wards. Instead of providing regular care, health professionals are fighting to save lives, the charitable organization Via Foundation, which will administer the collected funds, said.

Several healthcare professionals have given their perspectives.

“As nurses, we interact with Covid-19 patients the most, and we see it all. That we can’t help them, that they are suffocating and we have to watch. We give them everything we can, but Covid-19 is horrible, just horrible.” Helena, a nurse at a hospital in Kolín, said.

“Before Covid-19, I never cried at work when a patient died. Now, when four people die during a single shift, it takes a toll on us.” Václava, a ward nurse at a hospital in Cheb, said.

The northwestern border district of Cheb has been one of the hardest hit parts of the Czech Republic.

The pandemic has made healthcare professionals face something they haven’t seen before, and something that there is no training for. The intensity, duration and the number of deaths are unparalleled, Via Foundation points out, adding that many healthcare workers are reaching the limits of their physical and mental strength. For some, their personal lives have ceased to exist.

“Dying from Covid-19 is different than dying from other illnesses. There’s no medicine that helps, nothing to alleviate the pain. Patients suffocate while fully conscious, and we can’t help them at all. Patients are here without their families, just with the staff, whose eyes are barely even visible under the protective gear.” Ivana, head nurse at a hospital in Nymburk, said.

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The negative impacts on health professionals’ mental health need to be addressed immediately. Funds collected from the Czech Philharmonic concert will go to training healthcare workers to provide psychological assistance and support to their peers in hospitals.

Training one healthcare worker to provide psychosocial support to hospital staff costs CZK 17,500. The goal is to train 1,200 heath care workers as volunteers. This will create a network of peer psychological support intervention, both for the current pandemic and for future crises.

This public collection to help health professionals is administered by Via Foundation in collaboration with the Czech Philharmonic. The project patron is the Association of Czech and Moravian Hospitals with active support from the Trade Union of Health and Social Care of the Czech Republic. The project will be implemented with the National Center of Nursing and Non-medical Health Care Professions through the Psychosocial intervention service system.