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Shipping containers converted into portable isolated ICU wards are being used in Italy for coronavirus patients — see inside

20200418 CURA in Turin Italy 1_credits Max Tomasinelli.JPG

  • An international group of designers, engineers, and health experts created a way to repurpose shipping containers as portable intensive care units (ICUs).
  • The units are called CURA pods, and able to be installed as quickly as a hospital tent while acting as an isolation ward.
  • The first CURA pods have already been installed in a temporary hospital in Turin, Italy, with more on the way.
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A hospital in Turin, Italy became the first home to CURA pods, ICUs converted from shipping containers that are equipped as isolation wards for treating coronavirus patients.

Engineers, MIT researchers, and designers collaborated on the open source project that went from concept to usable ICU in just four weeks.

The coronavirus has spread to nearly every country in the world, and infected more than 2.5 million people. A third of the world is under some kind of lockdown. Italy has been especially hard hit as hospitals were overwhelmed with serious COVID-19 cases, forcing healthcare workers to make difficult decisions about how to use resources.

CURA pods have emerged as a potential solution to quickly expand hospital capacity and ease pressure on a stressed healthcare system. The first unit opened in norther Italy on April 19. Here's what it was like. 

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Each unit is created out of a 20-foot shipping container outfitted with biocontainment equipment.

A single pod has all the equipment needed for two coronavirus patients, including ventilators, monitors, and IV stands.

Pods have negative pressure to fit the standards for an isolation unit.

Windows on opposite sides of the container are intended for doctors to check the status of patients, as well as allow visitors to check in on loved ones without risking infection.

Each pod can operate independently, meaning they can be reconfigured and shipped anywhere they're needed in this pandemic.

Pods can also be connected to each other or to the rest of the hospital by an inflatable structure, which is used for storage and doctors to change protective equipment.

The flexible nature of the pods and inflatable additions means that they can be used to supplement an already existing hospital, or act as a standalone field hospital if needed.

The temporary hospital in Turin where the units are used has a capacity of 90 ICU beds.

CURA pods were designed collaboratively by a large international task force made up of engineers, researchers, health experts, and designers.

The task force aimed to improve the safety and efficiency of existing field hospital designs.

Cities around the world have quickly put up field hospitals to supplement hospitals, like this one in New York City's Central Park.

In only four weeks, CURA went from a concept to a real unit that could handle coronavirus patients.

The project is open source, so designers around the world are encouraged to download information to create more, or to add their own expertise to the design.

According to the task force's press release, more units are under construction around the world, including in the United Arab Emirates and Canada.

Since the project launched in late March, more than 2,000 people have already contacted the team offering advice, or wanting to join the project and reproduce units.

Even as countries slowly begin to ease lockdown measures, the team predicts that portable ICUs will continue to be an asset for doctors treating COVID-19 patients around the world.

* This article was originally published here Press Release Distribution

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