KAIST develops cheaper, smaller negative pressure room

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KAIST develops cheaper, smaller negative pressure room

A KAIST Mobile Clinic Module installed in Nowon District, northern Seoul. [MOON HEE-CHUL]

A KAIST Mobile Clinic Module installed in Nowon District, northern Seoul. [MOON HEE-CHUL]

 
KAIST developed a negative pressure room that can be installed and ready for a Covid-19 patient in 15 minutes.  
 
Negative pressure rooms are specifically built to treat patients with infectious diseases by preventing leaks of hazardous viruses outside the room. They function in a way that lowers the air pressure inside that space so that the air flows low on the ground.  
 
At the moment, Covid-19 patients with severe symptoms are treated in negative pressure rooms in a limited number of hospitals in the country. As of last year, there were 161 negative pressure rooms in Korea that accommodate 198 severe-symptom patients. Medical experts say there is a great shortage of these rooms.
 
Those with lighter symptoms are also quarantined in separate enclosures or tents, which are easier to install and transport. But in terms of function, they’re more like temporary accommodation facilities that are not equipped with advanced medical equipment, KAIST explained.  
 
Named the Mobile Clinic Module (MCM), the pressure room installations developed by KAIST Prof. Nam Tek-jin of the industrial design department combines advantages of both. It is comprised of air tents, panels to which medical equipment can be attached, and a negative pressure frame, which consists of air pumps and controllers for low air pressure.  
 
"This is a very efficient and versatile unit,” he said. “It takes approximately two hours to build the basic MCM unit, which comprises four negative pressure bed rooms, a nurse's station, locker room and treatment room. We believe this will significantly contribute to relieving the need for negative pressure beds and provide a place for monitoring patients with moderate symptoms.”
 
A medical staff demonstrates treating patients inside the Mobile Clinic Module. [MOON HEE-CHUL]

A medical staff demonstrates treating patients inside the Mobile Clinic Module. [MOON HEE-CHUL]

KAIST has been operating a pilot test in four wards at the Korea Institute of Radiological & Medical Sciences in Nowon District, northern Seoul, since Dec. 28. The simulation for medical staff will run through Jan. 15. After that, KAIST will seek commercialization.  
 
Prof. Nam cited “expandability” as the Mobile Clinic Module’s biggest advantage: The unit can be broken down to one-fourth the size of negative pressure rooms that are run by domestic hospitals, which typically measure around 600 square meters (6,500 square feet). Most all, these modular rooms cost only one-fifth of what it would take to build a full-fledged negative pressure room, which cost around 350 million won ($320,000).
 
The research team expects the Mobile Clinic Module to serve less-severe patients who still need to be monitored on a daily basis in quarantine rooms, or to be used as a bridge station where medical staff can provide treatment before the patient is hospitalized.
 
Even after the pandemic passes, the university stressed that the modular units can serve different purposes as the components can be combined, broken apart like building blocks and hold professional medical equipment.
 
BY SONG KYOUNG-SON   [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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