Coronavirus: Better protection for hospital staff during high-risk procedures

A staff member of Ng Teng Fong General Hospital acting as a patient to demonstrate how one of the box shields enables non-sedated patients to be propped up on bed, providing more comfort, during treatment.
A staff member of Ng Teng Fong General Hospital acting as a patient to demonstrate how one of the box shields enables non-sedated patients to be propped up on bed, providing more comfort, during treatment.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

A hospital has come up with new box shields that offer added protection for healthcare workers performing high-risk aerosol-generating procedures on critically ill patients, including Covid-19 cases.

One of the three box shields, which are called Bio-aerosol Containment Units, will help patients facing life-threatening emergencies in the intensive care unit (ICU).

A first responder using it can immediately perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on patients, and provide oxygen therapy for them. Previously, the person could give help in such a situation only after putting on a battery-powered air purifying mask, a process that takes three to five minutes.

The other two shields enable non-sedated patients to be propped up on the bed, providing more comfort during their treatment in the ICU or when they are being transferred. This is an improvement on shields already in the market, which are smaller and placed over patients who recline flat on the bed.

Keeping non-sedated ICU patients and those waking up from surgery propped up is vital for their comfort and ease of breathing, said Adjunct Assistant Professor Deepak Joseph, senior consultant at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital's (NTFGH) department of anaesthesia.

"When patients in the ICU have breathing difficulties, they would want to naturally sit up because when you are lying down, your lung capacity is less than when you are semi-reclined," he added.

Prof Joseph is part of the eight-member medical team at NTFGH which designed the box shields in collaboration with Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Robotics Research and Innovation Centre. The shield meant to be fitted to ICU beds is also detachable - an innovation that the medical team said makes it the first of its kind in the market.

Dr Tan Chee Keat, head and senior consultant of intensive care medicine at NTFGH, who led the medical team, said the shields for transfer beds are important because patients can spread infections while being wheeled from one facility to another.

"Currently, we have to deploy a security guard and cleaners to disinfect and mop the patient's path and cordon off the area," she said, adding that these steps can be skipped if infectious droplets are contained within the shield.

 

The three shields, which cost between $250 and $400 each, are large and spacious enough to prevent claustrophobia and to contain intubation items, said Dr Tan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2020, with the headline 'Better protection for hospital staff during high-risk procedures'. Subscribe