Minimising COVID-19 contamination in hospitals

02 Jul 2020

Due to the large number of patients infected with the coronavirus, healthcare facilities around the world are turning existing rooms into emergency hospitals. Because of the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 and possibly by air, hospitals are looking now at their ventilation and airflow systems. Roberto Traversari, Contamination Control Specialist at TNO, explains how TNO, Royal HaskoningDHV and TU/e gives advice to hospitals on preventing infection of caregivers and other patients by air contamination.

Contact Roberto Traversari for more information


Contamination by air is a big issue in hospital

In order to treat the increasing number of patients infected with COVID-19, regular patient rooms – in addition to isolation rooms and ICU beds – must be made available to care for infected patients. In many cases, this calls for adjustments to ventilation systems. How can we protect patients with other ailments– and all healthcare personnel – from contracting COVID-19 within a healthcare facility? Around the world, the same questions abound. And in the Netherlands, a special expert panel has been assembled to answer them.

Tailor-made advice for optimal contamination control

‘Simply publishing a list of general guidelines isn’t enough,’ Roberto explains. ‘Every hospital and facility is different, so we base our advice on each facility’s specific situation.’

Wim Maassen, Senior Specialist at RHDHV and TU/e Fellow, adds: ‘Our combined  long-standing expertise on both scientific and practical levels has proven to be very effective. We have supported more than 50 targeted video calls. Now, we are sharing knowledge in a continuously updated Frequently Asked Questions help prepare for the second wave of the virus and beyond, both in the Netherlands and abroad.’

Our research shows that the ideal situation is to confine all patients suffering from COVID-19 to an entirely separate facility with its own ventilation system,’ Roberto says. ‘But if that isn’t possible, we offer advice about how to minimise the chances of viral spread through the shared ventilation system.’

Practical advice for hospital logistics based on scientific knowledge

The experts have also made their expertise available for African hospitals. Anne Brouwer from RHDHV explains ‘Our African offices set up some video calls with local hospitals. We discussed how they could be preparing for the coming crisis in Africa. It’s important not just to focus on COVID-19 patients, but also on continuation of routine health services. Earlier outbreaks of Ebola showed that many people avoided hospitals, even if they needed medical care for serious illness. People should feel – and be – safe to visit healthcare facilities, whether they have COVID-19 or not. Medical staff should be maximally protected against getting infected or becoming an (unintended) spreader of the virus. In the Netherlands we helped prepare temporary ‘Corona Centres’. These centres can also be rapidly set up in Africa and give relief to hospitals.’

Safe hospitals in developing countries for patients and residents

‘We’re looking for partners in developing countries,’ Roberto explains. ‘That might be NGOs, government organisations or foundations willing to set up an expert panel or projects to advise hospitals about ventilation or logistical concerns. The panel has expertise at every level, from research to equipment to installation to testing,’ Roberto explains. ‘So we can answer any questions a healthcare facility may have about keeping their air clear of coronavirus.’

Want to engage with experts for specific ventilation or logistical questions? Do you advise healthcare facilities in developing nations, and want to broaden your expertise?  Want to set up your own team of experts? Contact TNO today.

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dr. ing. Roberto Traversari, MBA

  • Hospital
  • Energy
  • logistics
  • Air quality
  • operation theatre

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