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  • Holger Dielenberg

KUTITJI – Health Forge Mobile Isolation Unit nominated finalist in Victorian Premiers Design Awards

Health Forge, in conjunction with Space Tank Studio, are thrilled to have been nominated as a finalist in the prestigious Victorian Premiers Design Award for their research and development of the KUTITJI mobile isolation unit.

Health Forge was born out of Space Tank’s desire to develop innovative solutions in the healthcare sector and improve health outcomes for our most vulnerable, including healthcare workers, their patients and their families.

With Space Tank’s engineering and design capability at our fingertips, we felt there had to be a better solution than just using face masks for airborne disease protection.

Our opportunity to tackle such a problem came when Purple House asked us to develop a compact mobile isolation device for Covid positive patients for use with dialysis chairs. The design needed to not only protect other people from airborne viruses, but also withstand Australia’s harsh outback conditions and serve indigenous communities where dialysis treatment is required.

Our research showed that for over a century, healthcare workers in hospital and aged care facilities have protected themselves by practicing physical distancing, patient isolation and wearing PPE such as face masks and gloves. These methods have seen no significant evolution since the Spanish Flu.

By hybridising building ventilation and patient isolation into a commercially available compact mobile unit for beds and chairs, we could bring innovation into a 100-year-old problem space.

So why KUTITJI?… Health PPE, such as face masks, and building ventilation systems can only combat airborne viruses once airborne pathogens are present in the hospital room environment. Despite wearing full PPE and working in ventilated rooms, a concerning percentage of hospital staff and other patients are still catching the virus while in hospital. This is leading to staff from entire hospital floors being furloughed due to hospital infection outbreaks.

The KUTITJI mobile isolation unit helps contain airborne viruses at the point source by forming an enclosed safe environment directly around a positive patient and filters out up to 99.95% of viral pathogens, returning clean air into the hospital room environment.

This new medical device helps address a worldwide shortage of isolation rooms in healthcare by providing a more flexible and scalable patient isolation solution, at one twentieth of the cost compared to in-situ isolation rooms. The benefit is rapid deployment for a multitude of scenarios such as: hospital wards, quarantine, palliative care, residential aged/disability care, dialysis treatment, emergency departments, oncology and intensive care units.

We are incredibly indebted to our engineering and design team and to the clinical advice, engineering and airflow dynamics support that we received from Purple House, Curtin University and Northern Health. The incredibly challenging living and working conditions that we were forced to deal with under Covid also compelled our research and development partners to go above and beyond in their support for the project.

In particular we want to thank and acknowledge our primary project partner, Purple House. In the face of significant supply chain breakdown, their on-going support, collaboration and understanding allowed us to problem solve and pivot the design to accommodate for alternative solutions.

As the designer and manufacturer, our key concern with rapidly evolving the design was to maintain the product’s essential performance and user safety in accordance with regulatory standards. We were blown away with the professionalism and expertise of our engineering and design team who were able to achieve this. However, it came with many learnings, failings, re-working and eating a lot of humble pie along the way.

We have now finalised a design that is engineered for local production, thereby supporting sovereign manufacturing and opening opportunities for national and export commercialisation.

At the time of writing this blog, the construction of the first ten units, to be delivered to Purple House, are 98% complete. After a short well-earned break over the Xmas period, the team will finalise the build and look forward to delivering these units to the Northern Territory in the early new year.

We are immensely grateful to the Victorian Premier Design Awards team for their unenviable task of selecting the finalists from across Victoria. We are also honoured to be amongst such a high calibre of fellow nominees and celebrate their brilliant designs.

Here’s looking forward to March 2022 to see who the winners are!

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