Coronavirus: Brussels hospital turns snorkelling masks into respirators

Coronavirus: Brussels hospital turns snorkelling masks into respirators
The devices were based off Decathlon scuba diving mask, pictured. Credit: Wildswimmer Pete/Wikimedia Commons

A Brussels hospital will start using snorkelling mask prototypes to treat Covid-19 patients in need of moderate breathing assistance in order to make up for a shortage of medical supplies.

Drawing on an initiative developed in Italy, the Erasmus Hospital in Brussels used scuba masks from sports retailer Decathlon to develop 3-D-printed masks into artificial respirators for patients in sub-intensive therapy.

"Since the beginning of the epidemic, our teams have had to ceaselessly adapt and explore new possibilities for our patients. This time, inspiration came from snorkelling and the experience of Italian doctors," the hospital wrote on social media.

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The masks were developed as a way to counter shortages in medical equipment supply and are meant to be single-use, requiring no sterilisation.

The first prototypes are set to be received by hospital staff on Monday, with the manufacturer saying that they aim to produce hundreds more but are awaiting official authorisations.

"We could make 500 pieces by the end of the week or even earlier if needed, but for that we need permission from the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products," said Alexandre Chau of Endo Tools Therapeutics, a local medical device company.

Following an authorisation request filed this weekend, the hospital and manufacturer are expecting a reply in the coming days.

The devices were developed by a team of Italian engineers, Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaiol of ISINNOVA, to help a hospital in the northern Lombardy region struggling with dwindling supplies.

Fracassi and Roamiol made the prototype plans available online, and their devices have since been put to use by other Italian hospitals as well as by doctors in the Czech Republic, RTBF reports.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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