Queensland hospitals are leading the way in the use of an Australian-made COVID ventilation hood which can be made from parts from the local hardware store.
The McMonty Medihoods have been installed at 63 hospitals across the state to protect health workers, including at Cherbourg, Chinchilla, Dalby, Inglewood, Jandowae, Kingaroy, Miles, Millmerran, Murgon, Nanango, Oakey, Tara, Taroom, Texas, Toowoomba, Warwick and Wondai.
That's compared to 36 hospitals in Victoria, 19 in WA, nine in NSW, four in NT, four in SA, three in Tasmania and three in ACT.
The device is easy to install, with a transparent plastic cover that fits quickly above the head and torso of a patient in a hospital bed.
The cover acts as a barrier between the patient and health workers, with a pump sucking air from within the hood to a hospital-grade air filter behind the patient's bed.
The rollout of the Medihoods is being funded by the Rural Doctors Association of Australia and the Rural Doctors Foundation.
Speaking at the 32nd annual Rural Doctors Association of Queensland conference in Gladstone on Friday, RDF chair Dr Michael Rice said the device was a product of creativity.
"It's a story of Aussie ingenuity, collaboration across fields, and in particular, getting bits from Bunnings," Dr Rice said.
"There's a history, if you talk to rural doctors, of trips to hardware shops to get items for medical procedures."
Dr Rice said the hoods were important to rural hospitals because many don't have COVID wards or intensive care units.
"One of the issues with rural hospitals is that we don't have those safe spaces - the negative pressure rooms - the setup that we really need to cope with infectious diseases like COVID that spread within hospitals, that spread to staff, that spread to other patients," Dr Rice said.
Initially, RDF worked with RDAA and Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service to put Medihoods into rural hospitals in the south, but it has now put the case to Australian Medical Association Queensland and Queensland Health.
The donations of organisations and individuals have helped fund more than 180 medihoods into regional hospitals across Queensland and NT, as they grapple with the pandemic
Also addressing the audience, Western Health clinical research manager Samantha Bates, who was one of many that worked on the project, said the hoods had to be easy and cheap to build.
"It needed to be relatively cheap and easy to make, and especially from local components and parts. So in actual fact, the fan units you can buy from Bunnings and your hardware stores - they're kitchen and bathroom extraction fans," Ms Bates said.
"We didn't know what the global shortage was going to be on products and particularly on plastics, so we wanted it to be as sustainable and as easily accessible for parts and components as possible."
Although built for COVID-19, they could have use beyond that for any other infectious respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis, measles and influenza.
Ms Bates said the device's efficacy had also put hospital staff at ease.
"I had some of our nurses telling me that they'd come back early from maternity leave because they could see that their colleagues were going to be particularly affected," she said.
"They said, 'I felt safer coming back to work early to help out my colleagues because we had the hoods', which was amazing."
The device is now a class one TGA-registered medical device.
The hoods were designed and developed by a University of Melbourne engineering team led by head of mechanical engineering Professor Jason Monty in collaboration with intensive care specialist Associate Professor Forbes McGain from Western Health Melbourne.
The hoods are made in Australia by the Evan Evans manufacturing group spin off company, Medihood, helping ensure security of supply should COVID-19 impact international supply lines in the future.
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