Protecting Local Health Workers during the COVID19 Pandemic
Dr. Brian-Gabriel Ndubuisi, CEO of Paperware Limited and alumnus of YALI RLC West Africa, is helping health workers in local hospitals stay safe by providing them with free hand sanitizers. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a scarcity and price surge of protective medical supplies such as face masks, surgical gloves, and hand sanitizers. In Lagos, not only did hand sanitizers become a rare commodity, hours after Nigeria announced its first COVID-19 case on February 28, 2019, the cost of a hand sanitizer bottle shot up by 2000 percent in some stores before day break, according to a Pulse.ng report. This situation put a lot of individuals in panic mode. The inability of health workers in local hospitals, who are at the front lines of disease outbreak, to access medical supplies like face masks and hand sanitizers, put them at risk, hindering their ability to effectively give care to patients.
To address this challenge, Dr. Ndubuisi, a medical doctor by training, decided to experiment with the production of hand sanitizer using the WHO recommended formula. After successfully producing some for his home use, he decided he wanted to produce more and donate them to healthcare centers. The initial donation of 50,000 Naira ($137) from a local foundation enabled him to produce the first 100 liters of hand sanitizers. Subsequently, he reached out to the public through Facebook and Twitter to crowdfund an additional 190,000 Naira ($520) with which he procured the required chemicals to produce 300L of sanitizers. To ensure the product was distributed to the facilities most in need, Dr. Ndubuisi collaborated with the Nigerian Medical Association. To date, 400L of hand sanitizers have been distributed among 40 local hospitals through the Lagos State Chapter of Nigerian Medical Association.
While receiving the donated hand sanitizers, a representative of the Nigerian Medical Association Lagos State Chapter acknowledged “this is a trying time for everybody due to the COVID19 pandemic. Aside from the general public, health workers are particularly at risk, coupled with the astronomical increase in the cost of protective materials.” Each bottle of hand sanitizer comes with a hand written note attached to the bottle, signed by “The Nigerian People” reminding healthcare workers that Nigerians are grateful for their sacrifice and “we have your backs too”.
Speaking on his decision to focus his intervention on the healthcare sector, Dr. Ndubuisi said “I chose to focus on hospitals for two reasons: health workers are the frontline soldiers in battling this pandemic, their exposure poses a risk not just to them but to other non-COVID-19 patients in the hospital. Secondly, distributing sanitizers to the public would attract a crowd which negates the medical advice to keep social distance for the time being.”
Dr. Ndubuisi credits his design thinking approach to distilling problems and designing optimal solutions to his participation in the UNLEASH Innovation Lab in Singapore and the YALI RLC in Accra. He is currently in the process of crowdfunding for the next 1,000L of sanitizers to ensure steady availability at local hospitals, while exploring the possibility of sourcing local materials to fabricate face masks and PPEs.