Made-in-Alberta tent protects health-care workers from COVID-19 aerosols

Click to play video: 'Health Matters: Edmonton invention helps protect health care workers from COVID-19' Health Matters: Edmonton invention helps protect health care workers from COVID-19
WATCH ABOVE: A made-in-Edmonton tent could soon help save the lives of COVID-19 patients across Canada and protect health-care workers. As Su-Ling Goh reports, the device helps solve a problem with huge ripple effects throughout the health-care system. – Nov 10, 2020

A special tent invented in Edmonton is designed to keep health-care workers safe — and working.

Emergency physician Marc Curial saw a need for the device shortly after COVID-19 cases hit Edmonton in the spring. He was inserting a breathing tube in a patient’s trachea when he realized how “underprotected” he was.

“My mask didn’t fit because I didn’t shave that day. So I’m… feeling air leaking in the sides,” Curial told Global News.

“And the whole time I’m thinking, ‘What am I going to be bringing home to my family?'”

He reached out to a longtime friend — mechanical engineer Chris Terriff — to brainstorm a solution. Five months later, their team’s MACH32 Aerosol Containment Tents are being distributed to hospitals across Canada.

The plastic tent uses suction and a HEPA filter to remove COVID-19-infected droplets from the air.

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“(The tent) contains the aerosols that are produced during procedures and draws (them) out through a HEPA filter. That then filters to 99.97 per cent efficiency,” Terriff said.

“Really, the concept is to build a portable negative pressure area over a patient’s head — and we built it.”

Aerosol-generating procedures such as intubation, biPAP and ventilation can spray particles up to 10 metres away. Those can stay infectious for up to three hours. Because of that risk, hospitals have stopped some procedures.

READ MORE: Aerosol spread of coronavirus underscores importance of avoiding ‘three Cs’: Tam 

“I have not used biPAP since COVID(-19) started. And this is a technique that would get people better, faster. Instead of sending them to the ICU, (with biPAP) we can send them to the regular medicine floor,” explained Curial.

The tent is portable, so it allows patients to be transferred safely within the hospital. It also has the potential to turn any room into a negative pressure isolation room.

“So whether it’s a hotel, or whether it’s a gymnasium… if we needed to go and create a temporary field hospital, these could be basically brought out and (they’re) portable enough to use for any bed in the facility,” said Terriff.

Curial said his emergency department has been shortstaffed since the pandemic began. Many doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and cleaning staff have been forced to isolate after exposure to COVID-19. He points out all patients — whether they are coming in for a broken leg or a heart attack — are feeling the impact of delayed procedures.

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Curial described the hospital environment as “long hours, underresourced and high-risk.”

“People’s tensions are running high,” he said. “And we’re trying to help out with that.”

The disposable tent part costs less than $100. Both Curial and Terriff are proud of their made-in-Canada solution and hope it will become standard care in hospitals across the country.

“We’re using parts sourced entirely from Canadian manufacturers and distributors, we’re using (Edmonton) fabricators, we’re taking people from oil and gas… architectural and metal work, and putting them on a project in health care,” said Curial.

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