Doctors testing locally-made device to combat COVID-19 spread

Doctors at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. are testing a device built in Prince George that could help keep medical staff safe when intubating a patient with COVID-19.

A physician team made up of anesthesiologist Dr. Jamil Akhtar, intensivist Dr. M.J. Slabbert and emergency room doctor Dr. Laura Brough looked at ways to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic and identified endo-tracheal intubation boxes as a training tool and potential back-up to normal personal protective equipment like N95 masks.

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An intubation box is a transparent plastic box that sits over the patient's head and shoulders as they are intubated, acting as a barrier between the patient and the medical personnel.

“Due to the dedicated and prompt help from our Northern Health partners and Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation, I managed to get the first prototype box built on the same day," Akhtar said in a press release issued by the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation on Monday. "We would like to announce the availability of the first prototype intubation box, professionally built and delivered to the hospital already. We have started to use simulation to evaluate the intubation box as a potential back-up tool. Potentially, these boxes can be used with high risk patients.”

Intubation boxes were first developed by Dr. Hsien Yung Lan in Taiwan, and have been evaluated around the world and in North America. The devices are cheap to make and easy to clean and reuse.

“We are doing our best to be fit to fight back with tools that will protect our staff and health care workers," said Akhtar, who is the head of anesthesia at UHNBC.

The Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation stepped up to fund the construction of the devices.

“When approached with the opportunity for donors to fund this, naturally we agreed wholeheartedly. It is what our Donors want and have come to expect from us, and we are happy to provide funding on their behalf,” foundation CEO Judy Neiser in a press release. “We are ever so grateful for donations that continue to come in during this crisis. They really do make a difference.”

The foundation has created a COVID19-#safeathome Fund for those who want to contribute to the current area of greatest need.

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