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How to configure isolation rooms in healthcare facilities

Due to COVID 19, the need for isolation rooms for various needs and patients has been growing rapidly. There have been a number of cases where the transmission of the virus occurred in a healthcare facility. That’s why the WHO suggested isolating patients that are suspected Covid cases from the other patients that need medical attention. But isolation rooms are often done wrong. You can’t simply separate one person from the rest of the facility by putting him in a single room.

An isolation room, as per the WHO health facility guidelines aim to control the airflow in the room so that the number of airborne infectious particles is reduced to a level that ensures cross-infection of other people within a healthcare facility is highly unlikely.

This may be achieved by:

  • Control of the quantity and quality of intake or exhaust air.
  • Maintain different air pressures between adjacent areas.
  • Designing airflow patterns for specific clinical procedures.
  • Diluting infectious particles with large air volumes.
  • Air filtration – HEPA filters, etc. Isolation facilities include the following types:
  • Neutral or standard room air pressure, for example, standard air conditioning, also known as Class S
  • Positive room air pressure where an immune-compromised patient is protected from the airborne transmission of any infection, Class P
  • Negative room air pressure, where others are protected from any airborne transmission from a patient who may be an infection risk, Class N
  • Negative room air pressure with additional barriers including an Anteroom, also known as Class Q for quarantine isolation.

Isolation rooms have fairly high rates of air exchange relative to other patient areas. This applies to both ventilation air supply and exhaust flow rates. Potential draughts within the patient room can result, therefore the thermal comfort of the patient needs special attention. Consideration should be given to installing individual thermostats in each room so that air temperature and relative humidity can be controlled from within the room.

Isolation rooms do not necessarily always require the provision of an Anteroom. This should be determined by the proposed operational policy and be included at an early stage of the design process. Where an Anteroom is however a requirement, it must be provided with self-closing doors and be of sufficient area to allow for the donning or removal of personal protective equipment or clothing.

An assessment should be made of the service requirements of the Isolation/Anteroom in order to determine the practicality of sealing junctions at penetrations to ceiling and wall linings. In some instances, the number of service penetrations in partitions and ceilings may suggest the introduction of a “false” wall or additional partition. The false wall provides a means of locating service points while maintaining the integrity of differential air pressures; due to the room’s external lining not having been penetrated. This method should achieve the best air pressure containment possible.

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