Forrest General Hospital Joins Forces to Provide Innovative Technology in the Fight Against COVID-19
HATTIESBURG, Miss. – (April 9, 2020) Innovation and creativity are words used to describe the work that four local entities have been conducting to help healthcare workers and patients in the Pine Belt. During a Facebook Live news conference from Forrest General on Thursday morning, representatives from Forrest General, Hattiesburg Clinic, The University of Southern Mississippi and Howard Industries came together to demonstrate some innovative technology which is aiding medical personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are all facing challenging times during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Millie Swan, Forrest General Vice-President. “But often during times like these, our innovation and creativity shines. We have three projects that many people have been working hard on to make a difference in the lives of others.”
Noting that the supply and demand needs of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is critical at this time, Swan said the technology presented by these groups is overwhelming.
Joe Campbell, MD, Hattiesburg Clinic and Forrest General’s chief anesthesiologist, believes that such teamwork between medical personnel, local industries, the community, and volunteers is what sets Hattiesburg apart from other cities across the country.
The Hub Mask
Anna Wan, PhD, director of USM’s 3-D printing lab, called the Eagle Maker Hub, answered a call from medical friends to aid in the mask deficit. Between her expertise as a digital fabrication specialist and access to a dozen high-end 3-D printers, Wan had the tools she needed to create a solution.
Less than two weeks and three prototypes later, through a partnership with the Mississippi Polymer Institute and USM’s School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, and cooperation of other USM faculty, staff, and students, Wan’s Eagle Maker team delivered the first set of masks to Forrest General Hospital.
On Thursday morning she delivered another set of 1,600 masks to the hospital.
Brittany Coberly, PhD, Forrest General’s director of Respiratory Therapy, said the masks, which are usable for 30 days, are lightweight, washable, and very comfortable.
“These masks can be fit-tested just like you would with other N95 masks,” Coberly said. “The fit test, with the different prototypes, has been very successful, even for those with facial hair,” which can sometimes hamper the fit.
Campbell added that all frontline medical personnel, whether Emergency Room, ICU, Housekeeping, Surgery, and others are using the masks.
According to Campbell, when treating COVID-19 patients, they frequently go directly from nasal cannula oxygen to intubational ventilators. “With respirator failures you have an option of an intermediary area where you can use a bipap, which is a positive airway pressure treatment,” he said. “That doesn’t involve putting the patient on a ventilator or putting a breathing tube in. It’s a mask that goes on the patient. However, the problem with putting this pressure mask on a COVID-19 patient is the positive pressure going into the patient’s mouth expresses the virus out into the room, which contaminates everything in the room and endangers staff.”
With this new technology, a snorkel mask, which fits all the way around your face and can be handily adapted to hospital equipment, has been modified to allow air pressure for the hospitalized patient, but keeps contagion particles from escaping into the air. It essentially adds a second layer of protection with very little leakage.
According to Campbell, this simple idea was sent to a former colleague, who now serves as president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, to share with the rest of the country.”
To aid in the supply of ventilators, Forrest General approached the USM Robotics Team to come up with the ambu-bag-based ventilator.
“It was developed in a short amount of time,” said Campbell, who described it as a very simple ventilator. “We let Howard Industries look and develop it from the industry side.”
Mark Dyess with Howard Industries said they took the prototype and added some special mechanics to it. “We shrunk it down and made it a little more compact with a little more control,” Dyess said, noting that the parts used in the construction, including a multipurpose motor, were readily available, which allowed the device to be mass produced rather quickly.
The ambu-bag ventilator can be adjusted to control rates per minute and be adjusted for each patient’s needs.
Because of its compactness, it can be used on ambulances or in hospitals.
According to Coberly, the idea behind it is easily transportable, which is important in the case of limited medical personnel on ambulance runs, allowing healthcare workers to remain in critical.
“These would allow us to very quickly ventilate someone and provide very quick care for patients,” Coberly said.
Groups such as these, who have joined forces and have used their ingenuity during difficult times are vitally important to our community’s health and well-being.
“These presentations of innovation and creativity are what we can do as a team when we come together,” Swan said.
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