“You quickly forget the cleaning staff, but they are at the station every day and clean,” says Fiechter.
by Jonas Hirt 20.6.2020 (Translation from German)
The pandemic in front of the lens
The intensive care worker Fabian Fiechter from Lörrach photographs everyday work with Covid-19 at the University Hospital Basel
BASEL / LÖRRACH. Fabian Fiechter works as an intensive care worker at the University Hospital Basel. The "Lörracher" is also a photographer. In his current photos, both professions come together. Fiechter shows everyday work with the corona virus in the hospital.
It looks like a brief pause: a senior doctor in a yellow protective coat, mask, safety glasses and blue cap stands in front of a patient's bed. He has crossed his arms, his eyes are on the woman. Behind him, the sun illuminates an orange curtain. This is what one of the photos looks like that Fabian Fiechter took at the Basel University Hospital (USB). The 39-year-old "Lörracher" has worked here as a nurse for 16 years, 14 of them in the intensive care unit. He is also a photojournalist. Among other things, he photographed the 14-year-old circumnavigator Laura Dekker. In the past few weeks, like many of his colleagues, he has had almost no assignment. So he increased his work in Basel. "I quickly realized that what is happening here has to be documented," says Fiechter. “There are tons of statistics, compared to there are few pictures from hospitals.” If they did, they often came from Italy, South America or the USA. He wants to show how much the treatment of Covid 19 patients demands from the health system. “We may have had fewer patients than hospitals in Italy or New York,” says Fiechter. "But we have to be very humble that it didn't hit us so badly." The photos are not primarily about aesthetics, but about their documentary value. That's why he didn't create any additional drama by black and white photography or by taking pictures of patients who were alone in a room. >> Protective suit instead of army uniform << The photographer is planning an exhibition in the university hospital for the summer. Visitors and staff alike should be able to better understand what happened. "The photographs impressively show what a special situation the pandemic was," USB director Werner Kübler writes on request. "The viewer senses what the employees of the University Hospital Basel - across all professions - are capable working together."
The photo of the doctor standing in front of a patient's bed was one of the first to be taken in the intensive care unit. Fiechter says that in this situation, the doctor considered how he could help the woman. “It's a serious situation, but it's an intermediate moment, if not this bustle there is a brief moment to pause and think. "
Death is part of the care of an intensive care worker, as are patients who need to be isolated. Fiechter remembers the work during swine flu. The situation was similar from the basic requirements. "The number of patients is the crux of the matter," he says. "I had never before experienced that half of the intensive care unit was occupied with isolation patients."
The photographer is not only interested in the intensive care unit. It shows how much the virus occupies the entire hospital complex. Fiechter photographs at the task force meeting. His photos show soldiers from the Swiss army exchanging their uniforms for protective clothing in the preaching church, the Test center. It shows how two women completely prepare a room. “You quickly forget the cleaning staff, but they are at the station every day and clean,” says Fiechter. Regardless of whether it is a normal or intensive care unit, disinfecting the rooms is very time-consuming. “I was very focused on the staff,” says Fiechter. One of the photos shows how a nurse either vacuums a patient's mouth or brushes his teeth - Fiechter is not 100 percent sure. "I also tried moments
to work out where you can see the care. ”That was a challenge. The nurses always wear a mask, the patients do not see how they smile. The facial expressions are difficult to recognize for the photographer. And you don't see how people talk to each other in photos.
In addition to the current situation, Fiechter has another topic in addition to the photos: “How does society deal with health care?” A topic that has been bothering him for a long time. "How is care valued, the work of doctors, nurses and how much is health care worth to society?" It becomes clear how personnel-intensive the treatment is. Photos show how a team turns a ventilated patient to the prone position. A abdominal position can improve ventilation of the lungs and oxygenation of the blood in ventilated patients. “We specially formed a team for the abdominal position that turned patients in the morning after consultation. In the evening they went through the ward and turned the patients back, ”says Fiechter.
The woman in front of whom the thinking senior physician is standing also needs support. "The patient had to be ventilated for a very long time," says Fiechter, "but is now getting better."