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What Can We Do to Keep Doctors Safe?

– Contributed content –

Doctor's labcoat

(Darko Stojanovic, Pixabay)

7 Apr. 2020. The coronavirus pandemic presents a dilemma. On the one hand, the list of symptoms can be easily confused with a bad case of the flu for anybody who develops only a mild version of COVID-19, making it hard for people to know whether they’ve been infected. Some people may not develop any symptoms at all. As such, they might assume they’re safe, while they are, in fact, contagious to others. Therefore, the spread of the pandemic can be challenging to manage.

On the other hand, a doctor can help to figure out whether you have contracted the virus. Unfortunately, regular contact with individuals who have tested positive for coronavirus can also put doctors and nurses at risk. Therefore, health care workers can not only be affected but also spread the virus without knowing it. Additionally, people who were medically trained and understood the safety measures in hospitals and health care centers have lost their lives to the illness.

Tackling coronavirus and stopping the pandemic is not going to happen overnight. However, now more than ever, engineers, scientists, and anybody who can help need to come together to figure out how to keep health care workers safe.

High-quality face shields

Engineering and medical team from the Massachusetts Institute of technology and McGill University in Montreal, Quebec have been working on developing effective face shields to protect health care workers. Indeed, protective equipment can be difficult to get by. A lot of doctors and nurses have to make do with ineffective equipment, including face masks. As such, many teams of specialists worldwide have taken it upon themselves to support hospital workers with new designs that can be made rapidly. Cost-effective patterns are a favorite, as face shields need to be changed frequently for the safety of employees in medical centers. Unfortunately, the pandemic is affecting stock, making it harder for doctors and nurses to stay safe. As such, engineering initiatives that put practical production and hygiene first can be a game-changer in the current crisis.

Selective specialties

Coronavirus is spreading rapidly. The highly contagious infection is responsible for one in every 20 deaths. However, it means that other patients are visiting hospitals with symptoms that are not related to the pandemic. As the need for medical care increases, health care workers also need to be able to support non-COVID-19 patients. Here, the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) career path can make a huge difference. Indeed, if you are interested in jobs similar to an LPN, you can find out how to support patients in hospices, pediatric nursing, IV therapy, and nephrology effectively, for instance. Why does it matter? By maintaining a diverse skill set in the health care workforce, hospitals can help to reduce the risk of infection. Not every doctor needs to be on the front line of the pandemic, which means that other patients can receive the care they need and rapidly free medical equipment and assets.

Helping researchers pursue their tasks

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is spending billions on a COVID-19 vaccine. Indeed, the Foundation is currently building seven factories in which different teams will manufacture seven vaccines. However, at the end of this, only one vaccine is likely to work. Bill Gates believes that as time is against us, the priority right now is to boost the vaccine research. The Foundation, with the help of experts, has identified seven specialist teams trying to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine. As such, Gates explains his decisions to finance the build of individual facilities as the best approach to save time. Indeed, rather than waiting several months to discover which vaccine is working, Gates prefers to get all teams to work on their solutions simultaneously. The result? Not delaying a vaccine any further can save many lives in the long term.

Giving them a safe place to stay

Hotels, Airbnb rentals, and other accommodation businesses are, of course, suffering during the pandemic. However, many have chosen to put their place at the disposition of health care workers to support them during those hard times. Indeed, health care workers need accommodation near their workplace where they can recharge their batteries and rest. Additionally, due to frequent contact with infected patients, many prefer to self-isolate rather than join their families. Hotel managers, Airbnb property owners, and other rental investors are currently offering their rooms for free to doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel.

Medical supplies donations and support

The time is not for conflicts. Countries all over the world are trying to support each other by sending supplies and donations. Recently, China sent a cargo of face masks and protective equipment to Italian health care workers. The Chinese authorities added a sweet note of hope by copying Italian poetry on the outside of their cargo boxes. A few days ago, it was the turn of the Russian government to send medical supplies, which they did to US health care workers. Russia sent a cargo filled with face shields, medical gown, and other essential equipment to offer assistance to the American population.

A COVID-tracking platform

Can you track the evolution of coronavirus effectively? The answer is no. But you can find ways to help health care workers to get track of known cases and recovered patients around the world. The COVID-19 map offers a broad perspective on the situation, assisting the doctors in understanding how their country sits in the pandemic situation. Additionally, there have been discussions around the possibility of building a tracking app about infected patients. While the app would reveal confidential patient information, such as location, it could become a useful tool to reduce infection spread.

Making cost-effective equipment

Coronavirus affects patients’ lungs, causing breathing difficulties. One of the most challenging shortages in hospitals is the lack of ventilators to maintain all patients. As a result, doctors are forced to decide who to save and who to let die. However, designing cost-effective ventilators that can be developed and built quickly could reverse the situation. Currently, a team of engineers is developing an open-source ventilator design that is going to cost no more than $100 in parts – against the typical ventilator, which can cost $30,000.

Bringing new life-saving equipment can not only help doctors save more patients, but also avoid the stress and pain related to making impossible choices.

Helping the rest of the population with safety solutions

Fashion designers have joined the battle against COVID-19 by transforming their production to make protective face masks. The masks can be used by vulnerable individuals as well as care providers to protect themselves from the virus. Luxury fashion houses, such as Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, have been among the household names that promise to produce surgical masks. While these masks are washable and reusable, they are not compliant with the FDA standards. The bottom line? If you’re in the front line, you’d probably task a Gucci mask over nothing.

Developing an antibody test

As the race to find a vaccine has started, another medical race to find a COVID-19 test is beginning. Indeed, doctors now have tests to find out if a patient has coronavirus. However, an antibody test would help discover if you’ve had coronavirus in the past. Indeed, people who have already recovered don’t test positive for the virus anymore. However, their antibodies provide them fundamental immunology against the infection. As coronavirus can be asymptomatic, many individuals might have been affected without knowing it. Testing for antibodies can help doctors and nurses to stay safe and can reduce the spread risk.

Are we doing enough to keep doctors safe? As many health care workers are affected around the world, the answer is no. However, communities are coming together to provide technology, assistance, equipment, and hope to the health care sector. Only if we work together do we stand a chance against the pandemic.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this post are the contributor’s and not those of Science & Enterprise.

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