As coronavirus cases in North Carolina climbed to nearly 6,000 as of Friday, some rural health clinics in the state were armed with PPE thanks to local volunteers and medical students like Kacey Scott.
Scott had just begun clinical rotations for her third year at UNC, Chapel Hill medical school when projections of the coronavirus started hitting the South. With her seminars on hold and rotations canceled, she quickly turned her focus to the rural clinics in the western part of the state –– whose patients tend to be older, poorer, geographically isolated, and more likely to have health issues –– and discovered they did not have enough PPE to be prepared.
Kacey and other volunteers called 3D print technicians, companies, and local manufacturers and asking if printing PPE was possible. A few printers even agreed to use their own time and resources to start printing face shields and test swabs for clinics in need. Kacey, with the help of 20 volunteer students and Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC)––a program that provides and supports infrastructure for primary care in rural communities––devised a method for making PPE for rural clinics in need of resources, while socially distancing.
“Unfortunately, because we are a rural area –– frequently clinics here don’t have enough of a certain supply on a good day, and so we are bracing for the impact when COVID-19 reaches its peak here. So with that in mind, we decided to go ahead and begin mass-producing as many articles of PPE and test swabs as we possibly could,” Scott said.
Since this group of volunteers launched the project in early April, the number of orders has only gone up. Rural clinics need face-shields, and this group makes it happen. The team has even got a massive order from the local health department, and received a local grant to start making test swabs, in anticipation of statewide shortages.
“If you had told me right before I started my 3rd year that my clinical rotations were going to be suspended after 2 weeks of being in clinical rotations and there would be nothing to do and then I would be distributing face-shields across the region, I would have probably laughed in your face,” Scott told VICE News.
Cover: Kacey Scott making face shields and other PPE in her home (VICE News Tonight/VICE TV.)