Innovations aid Ebola health care workers

Good things can eventually come out of crisis. Like these two innovations for Ebola health care workers.

The first is a much improved design for the “space suits” health care workers must wear when caring for Ebola patients. Lives of workers have been lost because of contamination, especially when removing their protective equipment. Vital patient care is probably missed because workers can’t tolerate the heat generated in wearing these suits and have to leave hospital wards within an hour.

from National Public Radio

from National Public Radio

US Agency for International Development staged a competition for improved personal protective equipment design.  Researchers and students at Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID) had the winning design.

Simple but critical changes should make their design easy to produce at cost comparable to today’s PPE.  The suit opening is in the back, away from where most workers would encounter infectious fluids during patient care. A break-away zipper design makes it easy to remove without touching yourself. A battery operated pump blows cool air into the suit.

Any worker around the world needing full protective equipment  will benefit from the improved design. For the whole story, go to National Public Radio:

Another innovation is paying Sierra Leone health care workers using mobile money.

Health Care workers are putting their lives on the line every day. They’re putting their families at risk of exposure as well, should they become ill, and of financial ruin if they, the family breadwinner, are lost.  To compensate them, they’re being paid extra hazardous duty pay.

Timely distribution of payroll is difficult around a country like Sierra Leone without electronic payment systems. Or even efficient and safe ways to distribute paper vouchers in all corners of the country.

with mPesa, a worker sends money to their rural family by mobile.

With mPesa, a Kenyan worker sends money to their rural family by mobile.

Here’s how you can ensure Sierra Leone health workers get paid on time: mobile money. This works like direct deposit, except it doesn’t go to a bank account – which most people don’t have. It goes instead to your mobile phone account – which most workers do have, even in rural areas.

You can then use your mobile kind of like on-line banking, where you send money by keying in commands on your phone. You can send money to remotely pay bills to a vendor’s mobile phone account – all without using a bank or the hassle of getting and transferring cash. It’s done similarly to purchasing minutes for your mobile phone.

Mobile money systems like mPesa have become popular in bigger African countries like Kenya and Nigera. They’ve recently found its way to Sierra Leone, but with limited use. Perhaps this application for health care workers will demonstrate its value to more people and accelerate its use.

The UN is responsible for paying the extra hazardous duty pay to Sierra Leone’s health care workers. Mobile money is a good way to ensure secure and fast transfer of payment to hundreds of workers around the country.

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