The “vestibule” or “anteroom” just outside the operating room at Abbotsford Regional Hospital creates a negative-pressure space to prevent the virus from spreading to nearby areas when COVID-19 patients are undergoing surgery.

Abbotsford doctor designs special operating room for COVID-19 patients

Design protects patients from wound infection while preventing virus from spreading to nearby areas

An Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH) doctor has designed a special operating room to ensure the safety of COVID-19 surgical patients and health-care workers.

Dr. Curt Smecher, an anesthesiologist at ARH, worked with the hospital’s maintenance engineers to develop the vestibule (or “anteroom”), which has now been constructed at ARH, as well as at Surrey Memorial and Royal Columbian hospitals.

The actual physical structure of the anterooms was designed, supplied, installed and rented to the hospitals from a Langley-based company called EZEE Hoarding, but Smecher came up with the idea of combining negative-pressure and positive-pressure rooms in adjacent spaces.

Smecher said an operating room is normally a “positive pressure” room, which helps push germs away from the surgical field and helps to protect patients from wound infections.

But positive-pressure rooms can also push aerosolized coronavirus to the nearby areas outside of the operating room, risking infection to other patients and health-care staff, he said.

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Smecher said negative-pressure rooms are preferred for infectious patients who are hospitalized, because the negative pressure isolates any airborne virus within that room. But a negative-pressure operating room would draw germs towards the patient during surgery, risking wound infections.

“By combining these two concepts – negative pressure and positive pressure – in adjacent spaces, we’ve been able to quickly design and build an operating room that prevents wound infections, while also preventing viral spread beyond the room,” he said.

Smecher said this is achieved by the creation of a negative-pressure vestibule (or “anteroom”) at one of the two exit doors of the special operating room, which still maintains positive-pressure inside.

He said the negative-pressure vestibule was constructed in just over 24 hours, with an estimated material cost of $20,000.

“We’re not keeping this a trade secret, or expecting anything in return for our information,” Smecher said. “In fact, to protect patients and health-care workers during this pandemic, we want to share our ideas with hospitals throughout British Columbia and across the world.”

Kyle Olinek of EZEE Hoarding said the company has elminated all rental extensions of its units to health-care facilities indefinitely until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

RELATED: Canadians can’t relax yet despite progress in curbing COVID-19, officials say

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Dr. Curt Smecher worked with maintenance engineers at Abbotsford Regional Hospital to develop a special operating room for COVID-19 surgical patients.

The back space of the “anteroom” shows how the ventilation system is attached to create negative pressure.

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