Sikh doctors faced restrictions regarding performing their duties due to wearing improper fitting masks. For instance, Dr Damandeep Singh, a young ENT registrar, was debarred from carrying out their duties among many other Sikh doctors who have facial hair. Consequently, they were asked to shave off their beards for health and safety protocols.
But cutting the beards or hair is against their faith in Sikhism; therefore, young doctors like Damandeep Singh came together to come up with an appropriate solution. Eventually, a group of Sikh doctors took the initiative and formed an association in the name of the Australian Sikh Medical Association (ASMA) to brainstorm any possible solution.
The ASMA proposed a solution to the Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC), a government body; the solution is to tie an elastic band on top of their beards where the mask conceals strongly and does not slip.
Harbir Singh Bhatia, President of the North Shore Sikh Association (NSSA), pointed out that new ways of wearing masks to ensure safety in the medical field specifically require a lot of data to prove their success.
Subsequently, ASMA approached other Sikh communities who keep their beards and asked them to come and participate in an exercise. The exercise pertains to individuals wearing elastic bands on top of different styles of beards upon which the masks are worn.
Furthermore, the NSSA helped organise a camp at Sikh Gurudwara, Turramurra, that enabled the collection of data to prove the success rate for CEC. In addition, they hired a private testing agency to collect the data under strict observance of CEC officers.
Mr Bhatia said that in response to rising Covid-19 cases, NSSA took permission from various authorities before organising the exercise. Also, the association ensured that they followed appropriate measures such as social distancing during the data collection.
The CEC of NSW Health submitted the initiative’s findings to the department, after which a board of members approved the solution. Additionally, this will benefit Sikh doctors and other health professionals who prefer to keep their beards due to religious faith. ASMA took on a challenging task and succeeded in finding a permanent solution for all Sikh health and medical professionals in NSW. Mr Bhatia said that the association’s next goal is to reach out to other states and provide necessary help to similar health professionals.