Dr Dipannita Kaushik transformed her living room into a space for designing DIY Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits. Currently, a student of Masters in Public Health, in Assam Dipannita has come up with the easy-to-make kits – homemade face shields and masks – for fellow doctors in quarantine facilities and healthcare staff who are at high risk. The 29-year-old, currently non-practising doctor, is making and delivering the masks for free. She has been making these PPE gears and sharing them with the local ASHA, Anganwadi employees and public health professionals as well.
Several hospital management are unable to provide the necessary number of gears. Seeing a gap here, Dipannita is using old X-Ray reports/ OHP sheets and cotton straps to make these easy PPE kits that work best when used with masks. These PPE kits require no 3D printing are durable and reusable, tied across the forehead with the attached straps. Dipannita has also made a tutorial video in which she suggested that these shields can be made by anyone easily, with material that is available at home.
SheThePeople.TV speaks to her to know about what made her take up this challenge of designing face shields and masks. She wishes, “More people would come up with ideas to help fight the crisis and that no lockdown can stop us from contributing in this fight to save our kind.” Some edited snippets.
Locals are calling you a corona warrior. What inspired you to design and stitch masks for the frontline workers?
I was aware of the shortage of PPEs in Assam. As a learning doctor in the state, I was worried. Besides that, now the demand has increased in the hospitals and emergency facilities, I felt I should try to help and contribute in some way. Designing DIY face shields occurred to me as an effective strategy to help the frontline workers and also contribute to alleviating the situation as a responsible citizen.
I understood the need for easy-to-make face shields and masks because in these temporary medical settings where resources are hard to come by, very few of us have access to 3D printers and 3D printed face shields. That drove me to take out the easily accessible glue, a pair of scissors, punching machine from home and I just started making them. These shields are way better than ordinary masks, and are designed to protect doctors and nurses from coronavirus infection.
You have been making these PPE kits and sharing them with the local women employees and health professionals. Especially the ASHAs, Anganwadi workers have played an important role in finding the active cases, they reached door to door to talk to the people in order to collect the data about the disease, travel history, etc. Explain how crucial it is for these workers to have proper protection and what could be done for their safety?
ASHAs (Accredited Social Health activist) and MPHWs (Multipurpose Health Workers) are the backbone of India’s public health system. Currently, they are working as health workers due to the reported shortage of nurses and other medical professionals. The entire system would collapse without them. They are working on the frontline creating awareness, bridging gaps in healthcare access, making provision of care and arrangement of referral, keeping records, following up with positive cases in quarantine zones. We are dependent on them for everything and they are almost always overburdened with work.
Most nurses in India are women. And, not just the nurses, we have been seeing female police officers, sanitation workers, pilots, doctors, ASHAs, mothers, daughters offering their respective services in these difficult times.
They must remain safe and healthy to keep functioning normally. However, when we talk about health and healthcare workers, we often forget them and their needs. I knew that if I make these PPEs I am going to make them for these frontline workers because we need them and also because being at the bottom of the hierarchal pyramid of healthcare workers they are more vulnerable and least privileged. Till now, I have delivered two batches of DIY face shields (40 pieces) and homemade face masks (40 pieces) to nearby PHCs and Civil Hospital.
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What is your goal here?
My goal here is to reach out to the needy and the vulnerable. I also wanted to send a message across that even one person can make a difference and bring a change. I want more people to make these DIY face shields for frontline workers in their locality.
Share details of COVID-19 situation in your locality now. Since there is no definitive cure for the virus yet, how crucial it is for the government to contain the pandemic?
When I initially started making these kits, Assam only had a few COVID-19 positive cases. Right now, we are seeing a rise in the number of cases with the return of internal migrants from other cities of India. Most of these cases are from the quarantine centres that are testing the migrants for the virus. However, it’s a new virus and everyone is still learning about new ways of mitigation. Overall the state government has been doing a commendable job to fight the crisis while abiding by the ICMR guidelines.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
When I started making the kits I found it difficult to get in touch with the target population for whom I intended to make these. I approached many old colleagues and friends in the fraternity and finally a few of them responded and intended to provide help in delivering the kits to the healthcare staff. However, it continues to be a problem under these lockdown as I don’t have direct access to ASHAs and MPHWs.
Another problem I faced was when I ran out of raw materials to continue making the kits. Stationery shops were all closed in April and I was supposed to make the second delivery in a few days. I somehow managed to complete the second lot by borrowing glue from my grandmother who stays next door.
The whole world is waging a war against the coronavirus pandemic, but what about the areas that are still struggling to find an ambulance to reach an affordable healthcare centre?
Talking personal experiences with marginalized groups and rural population, they often feel stigmatized at government hospitals. Areas like the ‘Char’ areas of Assam, they still manage with bullock carts and mule-driven carts due to unavailability of ambulance services. Illiteracy is a major hindrance in these areas. Access to healthcare is a chronic problem with underserved areas.
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Feature Image Credit: Dipannita Kaushik