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COVID-19 News: Johannesburg Hospital Innovates Device that Protects Healthcare Workers from Infection

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
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Emergency doctors at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, in Johannesburg, South Africa, have innovated a new way to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19, reports Times Select.

The development team managed to secure private sector funding within two days, and have already begun rolling the device out in their own hospital. Future plans involve sending the device out countrywide.

Called the “Intubox”, this device would allow anesthesiologists and other healthcare specialists to successfully intubate the patient, in order to keep them on ventilator support for surgery, or for coronavirus recovery.

For all intents and purposes, the device is a plastic box which is placed above the patient’s head and face, health workers can assist the patient by slipping their arms into the box, all the while separating their heads. Similar to the protective measures taken when dealing with infectious materials while in laboratories.  It appears as in the example below:

Sourced from Times Select

Prof. Feroza Motara, along with her team, was brainstorming the idea for protective equipment and came up with a concept for a device that would limit contact with patients. One that could be used for intubation, extubation or aeorolising procedures.

“Our research showed us that with the use of the box we would decrease the risk of a health worker being infected,” she says, quoted by Times Select.

“We were really worried about the potential burden that COVID-19 could bring to our health system. We are already short of doctors and nurses,” she continues.

From just an idea, the device has come into fruition with sponsorship from FirstRand, Spire, and Paramount Aeronautical Engineering. The team has quickly been able to modify their original idea and take it off the ground.

“It has a wider use than just for sick COVID-19 patients who need ventilation. It can also be used in theatre by anaesthetics, in ICU for critical care of patients, and in COVID-19 wards with patients on high-flow oxygen,” Prof. Motara explains.

The Intubox could also feasibly be used for drug-resistant TB patients, or on patients with viral haemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.

Prof. Motara says her team took input from their colleagues at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital’s ICU, internal medicine and anaesthetics units into account when designing the Intubox.

FirstRand Group’s CRO, Gert Kruger has since commended Motara and her team for coming up with such an important innovation in such a crucial time, saying it was “great to see real heroes emerging from the medical frontline”.

Kruger says biomedical engineers were also grouped into refining the product.

Intubox Across South Africa

Prof. Motara says that within two days, they already have two samples of the box, which are now being used at Charlotte Maxeke. She says that the team is expecting about 500 boxes to be distributed to hospitals across Gauteng.

In the phase after that, the boxes are expected to go to the Western Cape, and then the rest of South Africa.

FirstRand COO Mary Vilakazi says the group is involved in the initiative because it was in line with their objective to accelerate the scaling of SA’s COVID-19 critical care capacity over the next few weeks, which, among other things, is focused on supporting frontline protective care.

Edited by Luis Monzon

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