Trendsetter Vulcan Offshore (TVO), a developer of innovative solutions for the offshore industry, has collaborated with local pulmonary and critical care physician Luis E. Chug, MD, to introduce personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The patent pending ViraBox is an impervious transparent enclosure that is placed over patients to shield them and healthcare workers from potential contamination by the coronavirus.
“TVO has a history of solving difficult offshore safety challenges, but before one of our employees introduced us to Dr Chug, we had never considered problem-solving for the medical field,” says TVO CEO Jim Maher. “When the opportunity presented itself, we quickly realised that we could apply our team’s ingenuity and creativity to help Dr Chug transform his concept into a valuable piece of PPE. We are immensely proud of helping to fast-track the development of a solution that could save lives.”
Dr Chug recognised the need for better protective equipment when he started a rotation in intensive care in March 2020 and faced the challenge of providing specialised care in an environment where preventing exposure to the coronavirus is a matter of life and death for compromised patients and potentially for frontline healthcare providers.
“One of the biggest challenges in curbing the spread of this virus is that it is communicable in droplets, but during certain manipulation of the airway (or airway procedures), the virus can be aerosolised, which increases risk of exposure to the healthcare workers,” Chug explains. “The containment system I wanted to produce would have to provide a physical barrier.”
As Chug began sketching a design for PPE that would restrict exposure while allowing safe execution of medical procedures, he discovered a box-like structure being used in China. Though the concept was similar, this type of box was not adequate for Dr Chug’s purpose. He needed more functionality, including the ability to accommodate different sized people and permit easy access to the patient to allow the dexterity required for precise medical procedures. In the span of a week, Chug developed a design that could tick all the boxes, but he needed engineering assistance.
Luis Mario Rodriguez, a mechanical engineer at TVO, brought the preliminary design to the company and worked with the engineering team to develop the ViraBox, a large, plastic enclosure that covers the upper part of a patient while allowing medical personnel to use sealed access holes to provide care.
“Within three weeks, we were able to move from the original idea through several iterations of prototypes, to a workable solution,” Chug says.
Chug has received multiple request for the ViraBox and has committed to donating two units to a Houston hospital. TVO is building an additional 10 units that will be donated to hospitals in Houston, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Topeka, Kansas.
Dr Chug and TVO hope this innovative solution can be mass produced to benefit healthcare workers and patients across the country and even potentially overseas.
Meanwhile, TVO is working to develop ways to simplify and expedite production using 3D printing for long-lead-time and high-cost components and evaluating further design modifications that will allow the ViraBox to be used for procedures that require more than one person working on the patient at the same time.