India has only 0.5 beds per 1,000 persons, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This scarcity was brought into sharp relief in the last few months, when the number of people affected by the coronavirus began to rise, and patients reported that they were being turned away from hospitals due to lack of beds.
Responding to this challenge, Modulus Housing, an Indian Institute of Technology Madras-incubated startup, has made use of a novel technology of collapsible structures, and developed a foldable and portable hospital unit called the ‘MediCAB’ that can be installed anywhere within eight hours by four people.
The USP of the MediCAB is that it comes equipped with a prefabrication modular technology and a telescopic frame that allows the model to be shrunk to 1/5th of its original size, which makes it convenient for storage and transportation. Post-pandemic, these cabins can be remodelled into micro-hospitals/clinics for rural places. They can be easily shifted and placed there.
Earlier this week, Modulus Housing deployed a 15-bed MediCAB to Varadoor town in Kerala’s Wayanad district. This facility has been attached to the local primary healthcare centre there.
Built at a cost of approximately Rs 16 lakh (basic structure Rs 12 lakh) including transportation, electric circuiting, plumbing and onsite installation, the facility was paid for through a grant issued by the non-profit Habitat For Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter.
Modulus Housing has collaborated with the State government-backed Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) which provided inputs on the certifications and customizations necessary for the project.
“We have developed four different models or ‘zones’ of the MediCAB, ranging from a simple cabin like accommodation for healthcare workers to an ICU facility for critical patients. For people, who have tested positive, but are not critical, our facility can hold anywhere between 12-16 patients. Our 15-bed facility in Wayanad is for such people.” says Shreeram Ravichandran, the CEO of Modulus Housing, to The Better India.
There are four different categories or zones of MediCABs
Zone 1: This is for healthcare workers, predominantly doctors and nurses. As per the recommendations of medical experts, it’s best that they stay in the same facility and not travel to home because of fears of cross-contamination. This facility includes a restroom and change room and has been designed like a simple cabin. “We have been building these facilities for more than a year now. This is our core business for workman accommodation and site accommodation for private companies and so on,” notes Shreeram.
Zone 2: This is where the OPD screening and isolation happens. This is when doctors test patients, isolate them for a few hours till the test results arrive, and put them under observation for 5-10 days. This facility allows for one person per room.
Zone 3: People who have tested positive are moved here. The Wayanad facility falls under Zone 3. This is more or less like a medical ward about 800 square feet with basic medical equipment support. In situations merely requiring patient isolation no such support is needed. “Here we put 10-15 people in a room with inbuilt restrooms so that they don’t have to move out. We have set up a small pantry inside and even installed a TV inside since spending 14-20 days is a pretty long time,” notes Shreeram.
Zone 4: This is twin-bedded or a single-bedded ICU, which can be attached with oxygen and ventilator support. These facilities are not required in medical ward because most who test positive don’t reach a critical level, but require minimal care.
“Facilities ranging from Zone 2 to Zone 4 are maintained at negative air pressure. This is for the simple reason that air from inside shouldn’t go out. The World Health Organization recently confirmed that Coronavirus is airborne and that it stays for about 8 hours in the air. Thus, it’s critical for the air to be filtered and channeled out elsewhere instead of letting it spread all around. We also ensure that all the facilities have in-built restrooms, plug points for mobile phones and laptops and air conditioning depending on climatic conditions. These models are also easily cleanable and sanitized, and come with a 10-year warranty,” he says.
Besides their facility in Wayanad, which hasn’t been inaugurated yet, they have built a 30-bed facility in Chengalpet, Tamil Nadu, for a private organisation.
Construction work on the Wayanad facility started about three weeks back and took about 15 days to construct. While Modulus took up the core engineering work alongside researchers from IIT-Madras, and the medical and clinical input came from SCTIMST. Experts in the field of viral infections helped them design the interiors and clinical design.
“The inspiration for foldable structures and rapid shelter solutions, came to us during the 2015 Chennai floods. In February 2020 we had the instant shelter system, where you can rapidly build them up. The patent on this system is pending. In March, SCTIMST, which develops medical devices, advised us to convert them into COVID-19 facilities. The outcome of this pilot project in Kerala will help in proving the applicability of the technology and advantages of micro hospitals, with MediCAB as an instant infrastructure solution,” he informs.
Highlighting the contribution of IIT Madras Incubation Cell-backed startups, its CEO Dr Tamaswati Ghosh, says, “We are very proud of our startups who are working on a range of products that are vital to India’s fight against COVID-19, from N95 masks, ventilators, affordable testing kits to portable hospital infrastructure. They have quickly mobilized and repurposed their offerings in response to the situation and are striving to make a positive contribution to the nation’s antivirus efforts. The IIT-M Incubation Cell continues to assist its startups through these challenging times and hopes that industry support will help them ramp up their efforts in a more meaningful way.”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)