Doctors at Tygerberg Hospital have developed an innovative way to keep their staff safe from coronavirus. The hospital is supplying doctors with modified snorkel masks to help prevent them getting COVID-19 whilst intubating critically ill patients.

These masks cover the whole face, forming a tight seal and are usually used for snorkelling in tropical waters. They have been modified with the addition of a breathing filter where the snorkel would usually be.

Using these full-face modified snorkel masks, the doctors are now completely protected from breathing in the COVID-19 virus whilst performing highly contagious airway procedures.

This is not a new concept. Doctors in Europe first adapted the masks when they began running low on their normal N95 respirators.

One of the hospital’s neonatologists and paediatricians, Dr Lizelle van Wyk, is an avid diver and was shown the mask by a diving colleague after Europe started using them. She approached both Dr Jack Meintjies from occupational health, and Prof Pierre Goussard, a paediatric pulmonologist, to modify and approve this mask.

Dr Lizelle van Wyk and Prof Pierre Goussard show off their masks.

The modified snorkel masks are now routinely used by the paediatricians for intubation and bronchoscopy in children suspected of being COVID-19 positive. Tygerberg Hospital recently acquired 300 SEAC® Libera modified snorkel masks for use by healthcare workers to prevent them contracting COVID-19 from patients whilst working in highly contagious clinical areas.

Pictures: Western Cape Government

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