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Researchers from Melbourne design ventilation hoods for hospital beds to help contain COVID-19 spread


University of Melbourne researchers working together with Western Health have designed a private ventilation hood for hospital beds to assist contain the droplet spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in medical care units (ICUs).

The transparent, movable personal ventilation hood sucks air removed from the patient while creating a good droplet containment barrier. The device is additionally large enough to accommodate other medical equipment that may be attached to the patient.

Lead researcher and hydraulics expert from the University’s Melbourne School of Engineering, Professor Jason Monty, said it’s known that COVID-19 is carried via droplets expelled by infected patients.

“The hood helps to confine bigger droplets to a known area around the patient while smaller droplets are sucked away through an attached ventilating system and filtered out through a high-efficiency particulate air cleaner,” Professor Monty said.

The device has been prototyped and tested by researchers in consultation with infectious disease experts at Western Health to ensure that its application is practical, hygienic, effective and safe. Image: Penny Stephens

Professor Monty was first approached by professor Forbes McGain, an medical care specialist at Western Health, with ideas about how healthcare workers might be better protected by individually isolating critically ill patients with COVID-19.

Professor Monty and professor McGain then developed the concept of the hood. The device has since been prototyped and tested with a team of fluid dynamics researchers, in consultation with medical care specialists, nurses and other communicable disease experts at Western Health to confirm that its application is practical, hygienic, effective and safe.

Patients’ trials start at Footscray Hospital in the week, with use on COVID-19 patients possible from next week.

Associate Professor McGain, who is additionally an honorary with the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Integrated Critical Care, said that in the present pandemic, doctors, nurses and allied health professionals are working under increasing pressure and risk of cross-contamination.

“Our testing has shown that the hood allows healthcare workers to interact with their patients and obtain a visible sense of their condition through the clear plastic, but with a reduced risk of infection,” professor McGain said.

Melbourne School of Engineering Dean Professor Mark Cassidy welcomed the chance to support the healthcare sector during the current COVID-19 crisis.

“We are pleased that our researchers are able to apply their research-based skills to produce vital support for healthcare workers during this time of need,” Professor Cassidy said.

The prototype device has been made using readily accessible components at an occasional cost, making it suitable for low to middle-income countries.

Western Health Chief Executive Russell Harrison said COVID-19 was putting unprecedented pressure on the healthcare system.

“It’s great that Western Health and also the University of Melbourne are able to add partnership, and in such an agile way, to form a tool to assist protect healthcare staff functioning on the frontline,” Mr. Harrison said.


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