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Restart Radio: Reuse and repair with two frontline medical professionals

Reidun Garapick and Dr. Tarek Loubani

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April’s show focuses on a topic that has become literally inescapable as of late, a constant fixture in our lives, the pandemic. We turned to Dr. Tarek Loubani and his colleague Reidun Garapick for a discussion on what can be done now to make a difference.

Dr. Loubani’s expertise comes from his work as an emergency care doctor. But he’s also Medical Director for the Glia Project, a charity that focuses on producing low-resource and low-cost medical devices, having learned from its operation in the Gaza Strip. We talk to him and Garapick about the reusable face shield that they have developed for use in hospitals. And at the present moment, how they transferred these experiences and resources to help medical workers in Canada.

Sustainable protection through reuse

Face shields are just one of the necessary pieces of equipment needed by healthcare workers. We discuss the lack of personal protective equipment and how this can be solved in a rapid and sustainable way. Those doing the most critical work caring for patients with Covid-19 must feel safe in their ability to do their jobs in such a high-risk environment. While the media focus is on the “lack” of supplies, Dr. Loubani and Garapick are steadfast in the belief that this could be solved via reusable equipment and procedures for reuse. We discuss why many are so resistant to this.

Will corporations change their approach?

Garapick also highlights the need for open-source designs of medical equipment and access to free repair information more than ever. Now is a time where innovation could save lives. We discuss how the barriers to this could be broken down to help those who are working to repair high-demand, essential devices such as ventilators. Major companies such as Tesla, as well as open source initiatives, are working towards producing medical devices and we discuss how useful this really is.

Beyond the pandemic

Both medical professionals make it clear that reusable and repairable medical equipment is the way forward, not just a strategy for dealing with this pandemic. Loubani warns us of the possibility of a reversal of sustainability-led thinking once the crisis is over, which is a recurrent theme. This is also a call to arms for all repairers, makers, and activists: your skills are essential and can be utilised in ways that can save people’s lives. We must push for essential changes to the system that will live on beyond the pandemic.

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5 responses

  1. Ann Cashman

    I found this engaging, informative, and it felt right on target and relevant to the current situation. The examination of the culture surrounding re-using/not re-using of PPE, and the idea that patents are to protect people, not companies, and has been hijacked, were refreshing to hear and thought-provoking. Thank you!

  2. janetgunter

    Thank you, Ann! Tarek and Reidun are excellent spokespeople, and they speak from direct experience. We’re sad to see that UK medical staff are being told not to comment on these issues publicly.

  3. Ann Cashman

    Thanks, Janet. I keep thinking about something I commented on, the idea that patents are to protect people, not companies. There`s a lot of confused thinking around this subject, too much for me to get my head round. Patents can be used for good, such as appreciating a company`s investment of time, money, and effort, and not `reinventing the wheel`, and for ill, like the patenting of red-fleshed melons etc, which are naturally occurring. I`m thinking now about prospective Covid-19 vaccines, and people commenting on the patenting of them. Does granting a patent uphold a standard of quality — I thought it could, hence my original comment — or does it just protect the company`s profits? I hope someone understands this and has written about it!

    1. janetgunter

      We really enjoyed Mariana Mazzucato’s “The Value of Everything” on the topic of patents. She draws a line between “value creation” and “value extraction” – our systems should be designed to promote “value creation”.

  4. Ann Cashman

    Thanks Janet. I saw there`s been a podcast about patents which I hadn`t noticed. It`s on my list now! That`s a very salient point you`ve mentioned there, that gives a flavour of the varying attitudes which make all the difference. Looking forward to learning more.

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