ANYANG, South Korea :A South Korean hospital has upgraded a COVID-19 testing booth to become a mobile contactless clinic that can test people and enable telemedicine for basic treatment.
Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital says it has developed the one-stop clinic to protect staff and free them from the burden of wearing full-body protective gear in the sweltering heat.
Patients enter rooms that seal automatically to reduce the spread of pathogens. Nurses reach patients through windows fitted with rubber gloves, while doctors can speak remotely through video systems.
Previously, patients with fever or respiratory symptoms had to wait long hours to gain access to a doctor and had to be isolated.
"It was very difficult for people with fever or respiratory symptoms to receive professional treatment due to COVID, and we could solve such a problem using video chat," Hallym University Medical Center director Lee Me-yeon said. "It was hard to see and hear patients clearly in full protective gear."
A minimum number of nurses like Joung Eun-sol, 23, are needed on site for basic COVID-19 testing or temperature checks and they no longer need to put on Level D protection gear - gloves, safety glasses, face shield and chemical-resistant boots.
"The worst was withstanding the heat, but it was also hard to communicate with patients or breathe in Level D," Joung told Reuters on Thursday, wearing a short-sleeved uniform and a face mask. "I can now use the restroom and even eat... I don't need to walk around all the time, but be seated as I work."
Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital Director Yu Kyung-ho said: "The technology could possibly serve as a very useful medical treatment system in countries where doctors and medical resources are scarce."
(Reporting by Daewoung Kim, Yeni Seo; Writing by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Janet Lawrence)