Covid-19 is an Engineering Problem
Healthcare and technology cannot solve the problem of this pandemic if isolation of people is the answer to the problem. You cannot give people enough medicine or technology to separate them efficiently enough to stop the virus from spreading. Both must be blended with Engineering because the separation of people must be designed and engineered in order to be effective and productive. Only Engineers and Architects can do this.
Hospitals are designed to meet the needs of quick-turn medical processes. They are designed to allow for a 1-3 day stay. It’s all surgical in nature and they want patients to start moving around and preparing to go home very quickly because it’s financially more viable for the success and survival of the hospital. This has worked well because hospitals must be able to pay for the cost of delivering services to their patients. But, this model does not work when most of the patients are long-term, infectious, and in critical care at the same time. They were not built for this.
Hospitals are not designed to protect Doctors and Nurses and they are not effective at separating them from infections. Most of the infection controls are designed to protect the spread from patient to patient. Yes, they do have protocols and some equipment to reduce the spread of infection but these were designed to meet the needs of a few patients at a time, not the whole hospital and all the employees working there. Doctors and nurses work with what they have.
Doctors and nurses do not control the system they work in. They oversee medicines, surgery, and non-invasive procedures to help the patients get well and back home again. They work with devices, systems, and products which the hospital administrators have selected for them to use. Yes, sometimes doctors and nurses become part of administration, however the bulk of the physicians are like employees and meet the professional needs of the hospital design.
Technology applies to every aspect of the hospital from administration to surgery and patient services. But technology is not directly applied to the well-being of the entire hospital. It must be utilized in the design of processes, workflow, safety, and development of equipment. Only Engineers who specialize in workflow, containment design, application and placement of safety equipment, air scrubbers, pressurization, humidity and much more, can do this.
This is not the job of Hospital Administration, Doctors, Nurses, or Maintenance Support. The hospital must hire engineering companies to re-design the interior of the buildings in order to safely and properly isolate patient infections from the staff and anyone else in the hospital. Most of the equipment and materials already exist and are utilized in many other industries to control noxious fumes and airborne debris in manufacturing, repair, chemical use and more. Even NASA utilizes dust containment and micro-controls to a level that hospitals now desperately need.
They don’t need to tear down hospitals and rebuild them, or gut them and refurbish, they need to apply new solutions to the current systems. Engineers simply need to design the equivalent of plastic bubbles and passages for people to work in. Bubbles in which the airflow is controlled, scrubbed, and separated in a way to allow the flow of people working to remain separated from the flow of contamination. Caps and gowns, gloves and masks, have limited protection. Other safety systems are available and need to be put in place now. Design the workflow, design system placement for safety, and install. Every work zone in the building must be turned into a clean room design.