Coronavirus crisis: Colton doctor invents device to protect medical workers caring for COVID-19 patients

"We designed essentially a negative-pressure room which can be erected on a hospital bed or stretcher," said Dr. Mark Comunale.

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Sunday, May 17, 2020
Doctor invents mobile isolation unit for COVID patients
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A doctor at Colton's Arrowhead Regional Medical Center has invented a mobile isolation unit for COVID-19 patients.

COLTON, Calif. (KABC) -- Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton has faced health care crises in the past, but the 2014 Ebola scare led to one of its doctors inventing a device that could soon be used to help care for COVID-19 patients.

"When we had Ebola, I was watching them convert rooms into negative-pressure rooms, which is a lot of work. And in addition to that, you have to create an antechamber where you get your equipment on," said Dr. Mark Comunale, chairman of the hospital's anesthesia department.

Comunale got to work on a solution and came up with a Patient Isolation Transport Unit. Instead of taking up an entire room for an infected patient, a chamber could be built around them.

"We designed essentially a negative-pressure room which can be erected on a hospital bed or stretcher," said Dr. Comunale.

For the past two years, Comunale has been working with the Food and Drug Administration on getting the device approved when COVID-19 hit the U.S. He applied with the regulator for emergency use authorization to have it fast-tracked.

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"What we want to do is protect the health care personnel from the patients who have something that can be transmitted," he said.

The transport is made of medical grade vinyl with two gloved ports so that doctors and nurses can treat the patient. There is also a pass-through chamber to deliver equipment inside the enclosure safely.

Three motors help to scrub the air of contaminants before filtering the air out.

"It has a good deal of negative pressure so that it contains everything that is inside there. If the patient sneezes or coughs or what have you its all inside."

That will allow patients to be easily moved around the hospital without infecting other and cut down on the amount of personal protective gear needed to treat COVID-19 patients.

But it could also allow families to be near their loved ones as they battle this disease.

"We've been able to work very closely with the folks at the FDA to get this hopefully to market in the next week or two," said Comunale.

Once approved, Comunale believe the company manufacturing his device can turn out 500 to 600 units a week and has the capacity for more. The company making them is based in the Inland Empire.