To protect its crews, Altona Ambulance Service in the city of Hamburg, Germany is using Tychem® 6000 F as a bio-barrier against highly contagious pathogens.
In the city of Hamburg, the Bernhard Nocht Institute (BNI) is one of five German centres of excellence for the isolation and treatment of highly infectious patients. Patients suspected of suffering from highly contagious viral infections like Ebola or SARS are sent straight to the isolation facility of the Clinical Department at BNI 1.
The Hamburg-based Altona Fire and Ambulance Service is responsible for transporting patients classified in the high infection risk group 3.3 in its specially equipped, infection control ambulance. Only fire crew member with regular training are allowed to care for patients onboard the infection control ambulance. To maximise their safety, all crew members must wear a Tychem® 6000 F protective suit from DuPont Personal Protection, plus protective gloves and respirator fit hood. After use, a stringent disinfecting procedure is carried out.
Three ambulance staff are required to man the infection control ambulance. Two of them have direct contact with the patient and the third, the so-called disinfector, is both the driver and leader of the three-person team. The patient section and driver’s cab are not joined in any way (the only contact is via an intercom system). This means that although the driver wears a protective suit, no respirator fit hood or breathing apparatus is required during transportation.
After contact with an infected patient, the protective suit must be disinfected with diluted peracetic acid for five minutes before being removed, so once the transfer is complete, as the “disinfector”, the team leader/driver has the task of decontaminating the other two colleagues. For this, he or she will add a standard breathing mask, protective gloves and rubber boots to the Tychem® 6000 F protective suit already worn.
On all calls, the infection control ambulance is also accompanied by a standard ambulance with a crew of two. These two emergency response personnel are reserve crew, on hand in case colleagues on board the infection control ambulance need to be replaced or if extra help is required, and so they also wear Tychem® 6000 F protective suits. The accompanying ambulance also serves as a contamination-free area to store equipment.
This kind of patient transfer is always attended by the emergency duty doctor as well as the Organizational Head of the Ambulance Service, each with their assistants, and a Senior Civil Servant is in charge of the operation. In total, an infection control call involves four vehicles and ten people. Before Tychem® 6000 F was used, it was double this figure.
In the past, depending on the transit time for a call, the Hamburg Fire Brigade had to provide an adequate number of reserve officers. One of the main reasons for the sheer scale of this was the fact that not only was the full body chemical coverall very heavy for the ambulance crew to wear, but more specifically the maximum application time (30 minutes) was largely restricted by the breathing apparatus (compressed air respirator).
Compared to the previously used, full-body chemical coveralls, Tychem® 6000 F makes the job much easier, whilst offering the same high level of protection against bacteria and viruses. Thanks to Tychem® 6000 F, ambulance crew can protect themselves with a transparent respirator fit hood which is fed fresh air via a filter/ventilator unit worn outside the suit and attached to the belt. Slight overpressure occurs underneath the hood to minimize the risk of pathogens penetrating, plus the battery powering this breathing apparatus has a run-time of eight hours.
Compared to before, now only half the number of staff is needed to run an infection control call, greatly reducing the requirement in terms of manpower, equipment and logistics.