The onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic has put tremendous pressure on the world’s society, economy and healthcare systems, leading to governments scrambling for quick fixes to stop the spread of infection and protect as many lives as possible.
One very public race is for a safe and effective vaccine, but in the short term, the major effort in most countries is to “flatten the curve”, preventing the spread of the disease and easing the burden on already stretched healthcare systems.
One Irish company is leading the way in infection-control systems, and urges the healthcare industry to future-proof itself against a potential second wave of Covid-19 or future pandemics.
Duggan Systems Ltd is a family-owned and run company based in Patrickswell, Limerick, that has specialised in façade solutions since its inception in 1978.
In recent years, it has expanded its product range to include the healthcare sector, developing the “Isolation Suite”, a fully customizable patient recovery suite that is already established in Ireland and recently expanded to the US.
“In 2013/14, we were asked to provide a number of ICU rooms, approximately 80 in University Hospital Limerick,”and we have installed well over 220 at present explains Stuart Goodall, International Business Development Manager at Duggan Systems.
“We designed a fantastic room that ticked all the boxes for the architect, and since then, the design has evolved with every job, so we can deliver a high-quality product while saving the customer money. The room can be built in approximately two hours, so it’s saving a huge amount of time on site labour, which results in a massive cost saving.”
Put simply, the Isolation Suite is a modular product for infection control and containment that protects the lives of patients post- and pre-op or those in an ICU environment. “We’ve listened to a whole host of professionals over the years, from nurses to architects, to deliver a product that would work for them and that would stand up to the rigours of a busy ICU/ER setting,” explains Stuart.
The suite works by creating a contained unit that is totally protected from its surrounding environment, explains Stuart. “One of the best ways to control the spread of infection is to have a room with negative air pressure.
When the door opens all sorts of bacteria can enter, but we can provide a gowning lobby where the member of staff can put on PPE and gown. The door is locked behind them and only when the pressure gauge has reached the correct setting can they go in to see patient. This ensures that absolutely no cross-contamination can come in from the outside or the corridors etc.
“The latest version, which is about to be rolled out, is seamless – there’s no lip or caps – which significantly cuts down on the time it takes to clean and maintain. We can also provide an anti-microbial coating on the whole room and fixtures such as door handles.”
What’s more, the suite can be made as big or as small as the client wants – potentially turning a large ward into a series of self-contained units without losing capacity. “We’re looking at a project at the moment where the room is 8 foot by 8 foot – a bed and a sink in a fully glazed room,” says Stuart.
“For patients that need the highest level of care and would need more machines or dialysis, we can make them bigger – whatever the size that’s needed – because this is a modular custom built design.”
The system is currently in several private hospitals in Ireland, and most recently, the company has signed a partnership deal with Commodore Construction in the US to distribute and install the suite in North America, where there has been a lot of interest so far in the product, most notably in New York.
And not surprisingly, the Covid-19 pandemic has thrust the system into the international spotlight as a potential protector against the effects of such a healthcare emergency.
“Even before Covid-19, there was a massive shift worldwide in how hospitals housed patients,” says Stuart. “There’s a move away from the wards with four or six beds in them, now we want one room, one bed, one patient – it cuts down the risk of cross-contamination and having someone who’s post-op in the same room as someone who is just coming in, leaving them open to infections.”
Unfortunately, however, for most healthcare facilities, such a move was still on the wish list when Covid-19 landed, leaving the sector to scramble to secure as many ICU beds as possible immediately.
“While our product is fast and of the highest quality, we couldn’t produce it as quickly as the hospitals needed it which was essentially an overnight requirement,” says Stuart.
“Instead, the sector had to put in temporary measures that aren’t as effective in containing infection. We’re trying to tell our clients to plan ahead, so if there is a second wave, or if there is another pandemic in the future, they have the resources in place to deal with it. We can have their suites ready for a potential second wave, and this will suppress the spread of infection so much better than the current solutions.
“Our message to clients is that these suites can be used as an ICU units or post-op rooms, and if a pandemic does hit, then they can be used to stop the spread of infection as effectively as possible.”