A leading virology doctor has admitted the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic were a learning curve for the health board.
Noha El Sakka is the only virology consultant in the north-east and was at the forefront during the first months of the pandemic as medics attempted to get to grips with the virus.
Doctors and scientists had to move quickly to find out how the virus spread, how to stop it, and how to detect it.
According to Noha, who is also a consultant in microbiology and advises Scotland’s chief medical officer Gregor Smith, they faced numerous challenges in the early weeks.
“The unique thing about Covid is that it was unknown,” she said.
“Nobody knew what its structure was, how to detect it, what it did clinically, how it transferred between people, how to detect it or what to do when we did. There were a lot of big questions and even now I am not sure we have figured out the best ways of answering them.
“We were learning as we went. We had to learn what the virus was and where the patients were. At the beginning there were three national centres of which we were one, which meant we were getting patients from Tayside and Highland.
“We had to work out how to transport them and care for them. That was a huge challenge.”
As well as working out how to combat the virus, the virology doctor was also responsible for testing – which at first meant tests being processed in London, then Glasgow and Edinburgh.
“I was responsible for ensuring the first patients were tested and the tests were sent to London, because at that point there wasn’t a facility in Grampian,” she said.
“After a while we were able to send them to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and we were responsible for making sure we sent the samples and got the results back.
“Eventually we introduced testing here, and we were responsible for ramping it up, making sure tests were available and ensuring they were good-quality. That was extremely complicated, beyond any scope of our imagination.”
Read more from our Covid One Year On series here: