Kathmandu, June 19: Frontline health workers are at high risk in the fight against COVID-19 due to direct exposure to patients. In order to motivate and boost the confidence of health workers, UNDP supported the Robotics Association of Nepal (RAN) and Sagarmatha Engineering College in developing a remotely-operated robot that can perform non-clinical tasks such as delivering medicines, food and general information to patients in isolation wards. On 19 June, the robot, named SISTER, was handed over to Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital (Teku Hospital) at Teku, Kathmandu.
The SISTER robot, which is made of wood, can carry 30-50 kg of materials at a time and can operate within an approximate range of 300 meters. It can run for two hours if operated continuously and for a whole day if employed intermittently. A tablet screen allows patients to interact with the health workers as and when required. According to Team RAN, the robot can be easily controlled by nurses.
Ayshanie Medagangoda-Labe, Resident Representative, UNDP Nepal, handed over the remote for the robot to the Executive Director of Teku Hospital, Dr. Sagar Raj Bhandari, and applauded RAN for developing a cost-effective, home grown and scalable machine. The innovation not only supported frontline nurses but also provided job and skill development opportunities to young engineers and students, she added. According to Dr. Bhandari, the robot will support the 50-bed ICU and isolation ward at Teku Hospital. He also shared that there would be a need for more of such machines in the upcoming days. Additionally, the Principal of Sagarmatha Engineering College, Mr. Ramesh Shrestha showed interest in supporting RAN to design more robots through their Corporate Social Responsiility funds.
UNDP's Accelerator Lab in Nepal partnered with the RAN and explored solutions to minimize physical contact between health workers and patients and to de-risk some critical care tasks, such as delivering food and medicines to the patients.