Robots, a boon in Covid- 19 treatment | Sunday Observer

Robots, a boon in Covid- 19 treatment

Being a nation which has successfully overcome numerous natural and man-made disasters, Sri Lanka is now, perhaps, passing a more critical period due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as even the smallest mistake could turn the whole scenario upside down. However, showing the silver lining in the darkest cloud, Sri Lankans are now engaged in developing innovative products in various spheres, including the health care sector.

With the rise of Covid-19 in Sri Lanka, developing an Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) or a robot, to help the treatment of Covid-19 patients is one such good illustration of the innovative capacity of the Sri Lankans. Atlas Axillia Co. (Pvt) Ltd has developed this robot with the assistance of talented Sri Lankan university students and has donated five robots to the Ministry of Health up to now.

Three of these robots are now in active service at the Homagama Base Hospital and the Iranawila Treatment Centre which are dedicated to treating Covid-19 patients. Two more robots have been donated to the Anuradhapura District General Hospital and the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital.

“Providing treatment to Covid-19 patients with minimum risk to the medical staff is the main challenge we faced. Therefore, this innovative technology is of great assistance in the mission against Covid-19” Regional Director of Health Services-Colombo, Dr Indika Jagoda, said at an online press conference held last Friday.

The robot which is worth Rs. one million (approximately) is useful for diverse nursing and medical activities. Delivering medicine and regularly measuring the body temperature of patients are the main functions of the robot. It also provides a live communication facility between the medical officer and the patient. Another advantage of the robot is its ability to transport food and beverages to patients.

The robot has a life expectancy of about five years as it is made according to cutting-edge technology, promising durability with minimum maintenance. It activates through a long-lasting battery fused by wireless charging technology and can auto-charge itself when idling at its usual parking slot.

Dr Dimuthu Ponweera, the Director of the Iranawila Covid-19 Treatment Centre who also joined the press conference explained the assistance received from the AGV in a newly built hospital facility. “The Treatment Centre in Iranawila is not a hospital. Therefore, when turning it to a treatment centre we faced many difficulties. The safety of the staff and patients was the foremost challenge”.

He said , “Similar to Suwa Sewa Viruwo, the team behind this robot are also heroes. Due to their effort, we were able to ensure a 100 per cent safety for our staff”.

The technology has not only ensured the safety of the staff but also has eased their daily workload. As Dr. Ponweera explained, the robot can cater to the needs of 40 patients within an hour which perhaps, could be difficult under normal conditions as Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and other safety measures slow down nursing operations.

“Because of this robot, we are using a minimum number of PPEs now. Other than medicine, breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning and evening tea are now provided to patients using this robot” Dr Ponweera said.

While digital technology has already influenced efficiency and productivity in many economic activities, the Director of the Iranawila Treatment Centre believes that embracing technology in the field of health care is also vital in upgrading the country to the next level.

Atlas Axillia, a leading Sri Lankan corporation in the field of stationery has gone beyond their usual business in developing this goodwill project. Joining the press conference, Managing Director of Atlas Axillia, Asitha Samaraweera said that they are humbly proud about being able to assist with the project. “We did not initiate this project with a commercial purpose. We were looking for ways to support the battle against the pandemic and our talented team could develop this robot prototype within three days” Samaraweera explained.

Atlas has been using the AGV technology for years now to increase the efficiency of their operations. The basic structure of the AGV was developed with the contribution from students of the University of Ruhuna, Kotelawala Defence University and the Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT).

“Using this robot does not imply that we have completely lost the human touch in our treatment. I think that more importantly, this indeed is an eye-opener to many Sri Lankans. They should realise their true potential in innovations,” Dr Jagoda said.