BUSY COVID-19: Cheap and effective air filtration at an Indonesian hospital
COVID-19 is highly contagious. In order to ensure the safety of personnel, COVID-19 hospitals must have standardised airborne infection handling systems. Rumah Sakit Paru Jember (Jember Lung Hospital) in East Java has developed a technology called ‘Burning System COVID-19’ (‘BUSY COVID-19’). The system includes negative pressure isolation rooms, an air ‘burning’ mechanisme, and air filtration and temperature control. The BUSY COVID-19 system is easy to use and cheaper than other comparable technologies, yet is still effective in preventing the spread of the virus by filtering and sterilising the air. In addition to the use of personal protection equipment and the establishment of health protocols, the BUSY COVID-19 system has proven to be an important step in preventing the transmission of the virus at RS Paru Jember.
HEPA filter and Dry Mist Disinfection are expensive and many health facilities cannot afford them, such as in Indonesia where the cost is around IDR 300 million (US$20,500) per system. SARS-CoV-2 virus dies within three hours outside the human body at room temperature. At a temperature higher than 56 degrees Celsius, it dies within 15 minutes (New Journal of Medicine 2020).
Based on this knowledge, the BUSY COVID-19 innovation was designed. In three steps, air is cleaned: (1) Using negative pressure from an exhaust fan, exposed air from COVID-19 isolation rooms is filtered and directed as airflow towards the burner compartment; (2) In the burner compartment the air is heated up to a temperature of up to 70 degrees Celsius (using heating elements and thermostats), killing SARS-CoV-2 particles; (3) Through a 3 meter vertical chimney made out of a PVC pipe, the clean air is released again. All materials needed for the system are cheap and easy to obtain. The cost to procure and instal the BUSY COVID-19 innovation is just IDR 1,800,000 (US$120). The system can also be easily moved from one room to another, wherever it is needed.
Specific issues addressed and anticipated impact
In order to ensure that both staff and patients of health facilities are safe from COVID-19 transmission, air systems capable of filtering and killing SARS-CoV-2 are needed. The BUSY COVID-19 innovation provides an easy-to-use and inexpensive solution. Since its implementation at RS Paru Jember, no employee of the hospital has tested positive for COVID-19 (data as at October 2020). The system can be used in all areas of a hospital, as well as at smaller health centres and even isolation facilities.
Apart from the health and financial aspects, the BUSY COVID-19 innovation also has significant social benefits. It creates a sense of safety for health workers and increases the confidence of people who need to visit a hospital.
The developer of the BUSY COVID-19 system is Dr. Sigit Kusama Jati, the Head of the RS Paru Jember’s Development Research Section. In collaboration with the COVID-19 Control Team and the Infection Control and Prevention Committee of the hospital, he developed the system in order to effectively filter and kill SARS-CoV-2 in the air at low cost.
Filtering and killing the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the air is difficult. The main challenge for the BUSY COVID-19 innovation is that no comprehensive environmental laboratory tests have yet been carried out to measure the level of SARS-CoV-2 particles in the air before and after going through the system. Therefore, most conclusions about it’s effectiveness can only be made theoretically. Nevertheless, this innovation deserves appreciation as a fast, cheap and potentially highly-effective solution to this pandemic’s challenges. No health workers at RS Paru Jember have contracted the virus, which is a significant achievement when compared with the high infection rates at other health facilities across Indonesia.