COLORADO SPRINGS — UCHealth continues to gear up for a potential surge of coronavirus patients in the Pikes Peak region.
Memorial Hospital already has had rooms specifically designed to care for infectious patients, such as those with tuberculosis or measles. For years, hospitals have used negative airflow rooms to limit the spread of infectious diseases and in that regard, this latest challenge of coronavirus is no different.
Mark Yoder is a registered nurse and the manager of the medical intensive care unit and the special precautions unit at UCHealth in Aurora. Mark says, “These patients [COVID-19] will be cared for in a negative airflow room, which means the air is pulled in from the hall, and out of the room through a vent and is filtered before its exhausted. That provides a layer of protection to those people in the hall or to patients nearby.”
Memorial Hospital has, by design, special isolation rooms at both Memorial Central and Memorial North. But as the hospital plans for a potential increase of patients with COVID-19, Facilities Director Mike Haijsman and his team were put to work. “We saw the need to add 61 additional [negative airflow] rooms. We did that by manipulating the HVAC system and also adding HEPA filters to make those rooms isolation rooms.”
Not all of the rooms at Memorial Central could be routed through the existing HVAC system. Haijsman explains, “We also had some rooms that we really couldn't overload the HVAC system with. We actually had to remove some windows and use a filter system to push the airflow out of the room and create a negative air pressure flow that way.”
These negative airflow rooms will filter the air from these patient rooms, and keep it from circulating in the hospital, ensuring staff and other patients stay safe. In the process it will also make the long shifts doctors and nurses are working a little less cumbersome because they can remove their protective equipment safely when they are not in the patient’s room because the air in the hallway and at the nurse's station is safe.
Haijsman says, “It gives the staff the ability to work at the nurse's station without of being gowned up and having to wear the PAPR masks that totally encapsulate their heads, so it will help a lot.”
Eleven room have been converted at UCHealth Memorial Hospital North.
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