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Hospital trials begin for Covid-19 intensive care ventilation hoods


Low-cost solution reduces the risk of infection when healthcare workers interact with coronavirus patients

A low-cost ventilation hood that can be fitted to intensive care hospital beds to help control the spread of Covid-19 from airborne droplets has been designed by research engineers at the University of Melbourne.

The transparent hood was developed in collaboration with Forbes McGain, intensive care physician at hospital services company Western Health, who is an honorary research fellow with the university’s centre for integrated critical care.

Jason Monty, the project’s lead researcher and head of mechanical engineering, says the ventilation hood sucks air away from the patient while creating a containment barrier for droplets. It is also large enough to accommodate other medical equipment required by a patient, and its low cost means it can be used by health services in developing countries.

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

McGain, who is also an associate professor with the University of Sydney’s school of public health, has contributed to several research papers on ventilation management in Melbourne hospitals. He approached Monty with ideas to improve the protection of medical staff involved in treating critically ill Covid-19 patients who had been admitted to hospital intensive care wards.

The low-cost ventilation hood has been developed and tested by a team of fluid dynamics researchers at the university in collaboration with intensive care specialists at Western Health hospitals. Patient trials have started at Footscray hospital in Melbourne’s inner western suburbs.

McGain said the Covid-19 pandemic had exposed medical staff at hospitals to an increased risk of cross-contamination from infected patients.

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

Western Health chief executive Russell Harrison said the pandemic was putting unprecedented pressure on Australia’s hospitals and healthcare system. 

“It’s great that Western Health and the University of Melbourne have been able to work in partnership, and in such an agile way, to create a device to help protect healthcare staff working on the front line,” he said.