The recent COVID-19 pandemic events have forced healthcare providers around the globe to find creative ways to isolate infected patients from other patients and healthcare providers, often relying on temporary modifications to their facilities heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to create negative pressure spaces. Often facility managers are forced to work within the confines of their existing facility infrastructure as the need for temporary isolation spaces does not allow time for typical design and construction of permanent infrastructure. However, not all isolation spaces are equal. The following criteria should be evaluated when creating temporary isolation spaces:
- Availability of Medical Gasses – COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization typically require the use of a respirator. Both medical air and oxygen gasses are required to operate most ventilators however many general patient rooms are not equipped with a medical air system, often rendering these spaces useless for COVID-19 patients.
- Location – The acuity of most COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization requires treatment in the ICU. Isolation spaces within the ICU, step-down unit or any higher acuity treatment space should be considered in lieu of general patient rooms which may not have the proper infrastructure such as emergency power or medical gasses to support ventilators, IV pumps and other life sustaining equipment.
- Adjacency – Temporary isolation spaces typically lack the proper air pressurization control found in permanent Airborne Infection Isolation rooms or other pressure sensitive spaces to ensure space differential pressure is maintained. Temporary isolation rooms grouped adjacent to each other, or other spaces with wide pressure fluctuations can often affect the ability of adjoining rooms to maintain the desired differential pressure.
- Total Air Changes Matter – The more air moved through the isolation space the greater the particulate removal. Furthermore, rooms with higher air changes can be turned over sooner after a patient is discharged based on recommendations provided by the CDC.
- HVAC Infrastructure – Many, but not all existing hospital HVAC systems utilize any number of air and cleaning systems such as HEPA filtration, UV lighting, air ionization, etc. While the effectiveness of these systems to treat COVID-19 is still somewhat unknown, many of these treatments have been proven to be effective in disinfection of other airborne viruses and pathogens.
- Negative Pressure Operating Rooms – Surgeries should not be performed in a negative pressure environment. There are other measures recommended by the CDC and ASHE to maintain the safety of the COVID-19 patient, healthcare providers and other patients without creating a negative pressure surgery space.
If you need assistance in understanding your options for temporary or permanent isolation spaces, please do not hesitate to contact Michael Jacobs, P.E. at 717-982-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.