SA brains come up with a nifty box to protect virus frontline ...

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SA brains come up with a nifty box to protect virus frontline staff

The invention by doctors at Joburg’s Charlotte Maxeke Hospital will soon be sent around the country

Journalist
Prof Feroza Motara and Dr Jana du Plessis with their 'intubox' to protect healthcare workers from contracting Covid-19.
Outside the box Prof Feroza Motara and Dr Jana du Plessis with their 'intubox' to protect healthcare workers from contracting Covid-19.
Image: Supplied

Three weeks ago, emergency doctors at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg came up with an innovation to protect healthcare workers from Covid-19. They managed to secure private sector funding for the project within two days, and have already started rolling it out in their own hospital, with plans to distribute it countrywide.

Prof Feroza Motara told Times Select she and her team brainstormed ideas for protective equipment and came up with a concept for a device that would be called an “intubox” to limit contact with patients. This would be used in any intubation, extubation or aerolising procedures.

“Our research showed us that with the use of the box we would decrease the risk of a health worker being infected,” she said.

“We were really worried about the potential burden that Covid-19 could bring to our health system. We are already short of doctors and nurses,” she said.

Image: Supplied

At that stage, it was just an idea, but with sponsorship from Firstrand, Spire, and Paramount aeronautical engineers, the team was able to modify it and get it off the ground.

“It has a wider use than just for sick Covid-19 patients who need ventilation. It can also be used in theatre by anaesthetics, in ICU for critical care of patients, and in Covid-19 wards with patients on high-flow oxygen,” she explained.

Motara said it could also be used for drug-resistant TB patients or on patients with viral haemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.

She said they also took into account input from their colleagues at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital’s ICU, internal medicine and anaesthetics units.

Firstrand’s Gert Kruger commended Motara and her team for coming up with the innovation and said it was great to see real heroes emerging from the medical frontline.

He said they roped in biomedical engineers who helped to refine the product. 

Within two days, Motara said, they already had two samples of the box, and now it is already being used at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital. She said they were expecting to receive about 500 boxes to be distributed to hospitals across Gauteng. In the next phase they would go to the Western Cape and then the rest of SA.

FirstRand COO Mary Vilakazi said they were involved in the initiative because it was in line with their objective to accelerate the scaling of SA’s Covid-19 critical care capacity over the next few weeks, which, among other things, is focused on supporting frontline protective care.