UP Los Baños moves to protect COVID-19 frontliners with solutions to PPE shortage

HSBC Philippines
UPLB COVID-19 PPE frontliners solution
UPLB is developing and fabricating various innovations including specimen collection booths for COVID-19 testing. Photo from UPLB.

University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) is addressing the shortage of various protective equipment (PPE) to protect hospital frontliners from COVID-19 infection.

The UPLB Task Force Laban ng Bayan Kontra COVID-19’s Technology and Facility Innovation Committee led the development of various innovations to solve the shortage in the supply of PPE, hospital apparatus, equipment, and supplies, and the lack of quarantine facilities.

In its report on May 6, 2020, the Laguna campus of the state university listed the various innovations being developed.

Increasing ventilator capacity

A team led by Dr. Kevin Yaptenco of the CEAT Institute of Agricultural Engineering is fabricating and assembling mechanical ventilators in order to supply these life-giving machines to hospitals that do not yet have their own.
The team is working with Dr. Jhalique Jane R. Fojas, a research fellow of the Harvard Medical School and a CEAT alumna (BS Chemical Engineering) who has extensive experience in biomedical engineering.

The team also made use of 3D-printing technology to produce venturi valves that are in short supply because these have to be replaced with every patient that uses a ventilator; splitters, an attachment that allows a single ventilator to service multiple patients; and caps, to cover the splitters when they are not in use.

The actual fitting of these parts has been done at the Mary Mediatrix Medical Center in Lipa. These components will be fabricated and sent to hospitals that have their own ventilators but lack these replaceable parts.

Fabricating intubation boxes

To ensure that healthcare workers (HCW) performing intubation, or the placing of a tube in the patient’s windpipe and connecting this to a ventilator, do not become infected by the latter, hospitals use a protective covering called an intubation box.

Under Dr. Victor Rodulfo Jr. of CEAT’s Center of Agri-fisheries and Biosystems Mechanization, three intubation boxes have been fabricated and delivered to Healthserv Los Baños Medical Center.

The team also identified other hospitals in Laguna that need intubation boxes and is now fabricating 20 units.

Fabricating face shields

Using 3D printing technology, a team under Ben Paul dela Cruz, a faculty member at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS-IMSP), is making face shields that will protect HCWs from aerosol droplets. They are also producing ear guards, an accessory that allows masks meant to be worn around a person’s ears – which causes discomfort and possibly pain after long periods of use – to be worn and secured around the back of a person’s head instead.

The CAS-IMSP group has produced 2500 face shields and 1500 ear guards and distributed them to different hospitals.

Fabricating testing booths

Meanwhile, a team under Mark Anthony M. Baldoz, a faculty member at the CEAT-Industrial Engineering Department (IED), designed a testing booth that allows non-contact specimen collection. It is currently in the process of fabricating one prototype.

The team is also designing a booth that will allow protection for both patients and doctors during the consultation process. It consulted Dr. Jose Felipe G. Hernandez of Mary Mediatrix Medical Center and Dr. Rhodora DR Ocampo of HealthServ Los Banos Medical Center in coming up with the design for the booth.

Developing decontamination chambers

CEAT is also designing a decontamination chamber that uses hydrogen peroxide vapor (HPV) and ultraviolet light to decontaminate PPEs and N95 masks. This will take care of both extending the use of PPEs and of minimizing hospital waste.

A team led by Dr. Monet Concepcion Detras, Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering, leads in the design of this semi-mechanized, non-contact decontamination chamber that can disinfect five to ten PPE sets at a time.

The team has begun sourcing of materials so that fabrication and testing of treatment efficiency and material integrity can progress.

They will also establish standard protocols for PPE treatment and reuse after the PPE decontamination chambers.

Should the design and procedure prove viable, the decontamination chambers will be made available for both nearby hospitals and the soon-to-be established COVID-19 testing center in UPLB.

Evaluating and equipping a quarantine/isolation center for COVID-19 positive patients

Also in line with the UPLB Task Force’s priority goal of establishing a UPLB COVID-19 Molecular Testing Laboratory, a team under Kathleen Baldoz, chair of CEAT-IED, is tasked to evaluate the feasibility of housing a quarantine/isolation center in the UPLB campus.

The team is creating an application that will notify and communicate with COVID-19 patients for pre-testing, and during testing and post-testing. They are also working with various stakeholders, including Armont Business Solutions and UPLB-OVCRE via the CINTERLabs Bioinformatics and Computational Biology team, and the Protocol Committee to design and implement the information system that will be used at the UPLB COVID-19 Molecular Testing Laboratory.

UPLB is also addressing issues of hospital waste management and other PPE supplies.

The UPLB team intends to fabricate other clinical technologies including improved respirators, nasal swabs, snorkel masks, robot arms, and laboratory furniture and hospital beds.

UPLB also released free-to-download children’s e-books to teach about the importance of social distancing and face masks.

UPLB is advocating edible landscaping as a solution to lack of healthy food sources in times of emergency.

SEND CHEERS in the comments below to UP Los Baños for offering solutions to address the PPE shortage in order to protect COVID-19 frontliners.

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Aurora Quadra-Balibay
Angie is a self-confessed reformed news critic who vows she has finally found infinite value in delivering the good news. She teaches students of all ages how to make the important interesting for audiences across media platforms.