Alberta-made tent protects healthcare workers from COVID-19 aerosols


A special tent invented in Edmonton is designed to keep healthcare workers and their jobs safe.Emergency physician Marc Curial saw the need for the device shortly after COVID-19 cases hit Edmonton in the spring. He was inserting a breathing tube into a patient’s trachea when he realized how “under-protected” he was.

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

“And all the time I’m like, ‘What am I going to bring back to my family?'”

He reached out to a longtime friend – mechanical engineer Chris Terriff – to think of a solution. Five months later, their team’s MACH32 aerosol containment tents are distributed to hospitals across Canada.

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

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“(The tent) holds the aerosols produced during the procedures and sucks them in through a HEPA filter. This then filters to 99.97 percent efficiency, ”Terriff said.

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

Aerosol-generating procedures such as intubation, biPAP, and ventilation can project particles up to 10 meters away. These can remain contagious for up to three hours. Because of this risk, hospitals have stopped some procedures.

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

“I haven’t used biPAP since the onset of COVID (-19). And it’s a technique that would improve people faster. Instead of sending them to the ICU, (with biPAP), we can send them to the mainstream medicine floor, ”explained Curial.

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

“So whether it was a hotel or a gymnasium … if we were to create a temporary field hospital, these could be essentially taken out and (they) portable enough to be used for any bed in the facility,” Terriff said.

Curial said its emergency department has been understaffed since the start of the pandemic. Many doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and cleaning staff have been forced to self-isolate after exposure to COVID-19. He points out that all patients – whether they come with 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, underfunded and high risk”.

“Popular tensions are high,” he said. “And we are trying to help you.”

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

“We use parts that come entirely from Canadian manufacturers and distributors, we use manufacturers (from Edmonton), we take oil and gas people … architectural and metalwork, and put them on a healthcare project. Said Curial.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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