By Jamie Leary

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – It didn’t take long for Dr. Eric Hill to realize there was more that could be done to protect his staff from COVID-19. For his initial plan, all he needed was about $40 and some time to run to the hardware store.

“Someone had kind of made one in their hospital, out in Tennessee and so I contacted the guy who posted the pictures, and I asked him a little bit about it, got some specs and then I took those specs and I actually went to a local hardware store and made a prototype that night,” said Hill.

(credit: CBS)

Hill is Chair of Emergency Services at the Medical Center of Aurora and despite his already busy schedule, he had developed a “COVID curtain” in one night at his house.

“Three days later, we kind of mass replicated it and made 15 sets.”

CBS4 first met Dr. Hill in March where staff were setting up a mobile triage site, prepping for a surge.

“Everything we were doing was just trying to design how to mitigate the risk to the hospital, how to mitigate the risk to our staff, how to meet the needs of the community while keeping ourselves healthy and this kind of came out of this idea process so we’ve been using this now for about a month,” he said.

On Tuesday at TMCA there were 54 positive coronavirus cases, and while those numbers continue to decrease, Hill says the risk to staff is still great.

“All those little particles come out of their mouth and just circulate in the room, and if they are sick, could contain little viral particles and that just gets on everything and so that’s a big risk to the health care workers that are in these rooms.”

The biggest risk comes with those who are asymptomatic.

“So we are using it for definitely those who we think are COVID patients, but we’re really also using it for anybody that we just don’t know which, unfortunately right now, if someone comes in cardiac arrest today, we will use one of these because we don’t know.”

The curtain can be setup in about 30 seconds, which means during patient transport there’s an added layer of protection for everyone the patient encounters.

“If we need to take them out of a room and move them up to the ICU, I can actually leave this in place or put one on and actually while they’re going through the hallways they’re under kind of contained environment where there’s no risk of contamination in the hallways for anybody else walking by.”

(credit: CBS)

Hill showed CBS4 how, with the covering, a patient could still be treated.

“All of my airway stuff can be done right underneath here, so when I’m working on the patient’s airway, intubating them, the only thing that’s really exposed is basically below my waist and my hands.”

The success he’s had with the design isn’t just a win for his staff. The entire setup was cost effective and simple and he hopes other hospitals can benefit from it.

“So this is a very easy way to do this … everything in this thing literally can be picked up in your local hardware store whether you’re in rural Colorado or you’re in Ecuador.”

The most expensive part is the drape, which can cost up to $40, but he said it was around $8 for the pipe setup, which can be re-sterilized and put back into use.

Hill’s design was published this week in Patient Safety in Surgery, an online medical journal. The idea is that anyone, anywhere can build one themselves and be able to provide the same security to others that he’s been able to provide to his staff.

“…for other countries that are looking for a solution to be able to download and utilize, we put all the specs on there and how we use it and everything else,” he continued, “this is a very easy way to reduce the risk and exposure to your health care personnel during these kind of challenging times because there’s so much we don’t know about this — we don’t really know who has it and who doesn’t have it all the time.”

Hill also hopes it shows the community that hospitals are going above and beyond to make sure those who come in for non-COVID related issues will be safe and shouldn’t be afraid to do so.

Jamie Leary


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