EpiShuttle: The mobile isolation unit protecting patients, medical staff

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A mobile isolation unit is launched and it is an innovative transportation system that protects patients and medical staff.

It takes some of the weight off their shoulders – literally.

The EpiShuttle allows first responders to treat and transfer infectious patients without wearing heavy personal protective equipment or PPE.

The EpiShuttle, the isolation transportation system, was born out of another crisis, the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

Andy Carter-Weston is part of the UK Hazardous Area Response Team.

“We are a specialist unit supporting the ambulance service in difficult incidents,” he said.

He teaches fellow first responders how to use units designed to keep caregivers safe while allowing access to an infectious patient.

“You can insert an intravenous cannula. You can manage the airways. All of these things are achievable with a little practice,” he said. “You have to understand the limitations as they are thick and heavy gloves which reduces dexterity and your feel. So you need to be more focused on what you are doing.

The EpiShuttle’s protective barrier means less protective gear for the caregiver.

“It allows us to work in normal uniform but with a smaller amount of PPE and it allows us to work much longer,” Carter-Weston said. “Because the PPE you wear is quite heavy. It’s hot with balaclavas. It’s very sweaty, it reduces your ability to communicate.

EpiShuttles can be deployed on land, in the air or at sea.

“The EpiShuttle can be one of those Covid success stories because we were able to get it into service and use it across the country,” Carter-Weston said. “Whereas normally it would take a long time to go through purchases and processes.”

There are about 200 EpiShuttles in use around the world, but not many in the United States yet. The negative pressure inside the protective bubble prevents contaminated air from escaping – medical staff can even strap a patient to a ventilator inside the unit.

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