Quickly deployable prefabricated medical facility ideal to tackle Covid-19 in Africa

9th April 2020 By: Donna Slater - Creamer Media Contributing Editor and Photographer

A partnership between renewable energy company Africa Clean Energy Solutions (Aces) and mining, civil and roadworks company 3C Tech Mining has led to the development of a turnkey prefabricated medical facility – SAFEPOD – which can be used to bolster medical facilities available to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

The SAFEPOD, which comes in two variations, is valued at R3-million, has floor space of 116 m2 and can house between 16 and 22 persons. The solution is primarily designed for mining-related conditions, but can be used elsewhere too.

It is recommended that the facility be used as an extension to an existing medical facility, such as a hospital or clinic. However, if an extension is not possible, an appropriate site can be established.

SAFEPOD uses a light building system (LBS), which is sourced from building solutions company Shell Case. It is premanufactured and containerised for shipment in a knock-down kit. The system is modular and light, making it quick to assemble and easy to handle with no heavy equipment being required.

The mild / moderate SAFEPOD comprises 15 beds with screen separation. This unit is air cooled and has a sluice room, drug and equipment store, nurses station and clean room – donning and doffing, a staff bathroom and two patient bathrooms.

The high-care SAFEPOD has seven high-care beds with screen separation (1.5 m apart) and a single intensive care bed with its own en-suite bathroom. This unit also features a sluice room, drug and equipment store, nurses station and clean room – donning and doffing, and a staff bathroom.

SAFEPOD features six core elements, including its scalable manufacturing. The building can be fully operational within three weeks and it adheres to guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation.

Another element of the SAFEPOD’s turnkey ability is that the suppliers, working with various partners, supply and commission critical accredited medical equipment, including beds, ventilators, intravenous drips, medicine, electricity infrastructure and financial leasing options.

Aces is the provider of the renewable energy solutions, contracted medical equipment and medical supplies, while 3C Tech Mining is the provider of the technology stack from Dimension Data and the LBS, from Shell Case.

The providers of the various items of medical equipment are Hutz Medical and Techmed.

Mohau Equity Partners provide the finance leasing structure.

The system can be used in both metropolitan and rural areas with two different electricity systems. A grid-connected system enables the SAFEPOD to be connected to established power infrastructure, while a battery back-up system ensures all electrical appliances are fully operational during a power failure for at least one hour.

An off-grid system is better suited to rural applications in which a self-sustaining power supply, using solar photovoltaic system, is used. A battery system, which charges during the day, is used to power the SAFEPOD at night in this application.

Generators are also available for both applications, as a failsafe.

SAFEPOD’s manufacturing facility can produce 20 units a week.

Aces CEO Dave Kruger notes that, to scale up production, existing contractors can be recruited to increase installation capacity, thereby resulting in the ability to commission 3 600 beds within 12 weeks.

He adds that SAFEPOD can be distributed throughout Southern Africa, including Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Namibia, Mauritius and South Africa.

“It is fully supported by the partners, who currently have infrastructure and a distribution network throughout Africa,” says Kruger, adding that SAFEPOD can be deployed quickly into rural and hard-to-reach areas.

He says there has been interest in SAFEPOD from several mines, as well as an East African government, thus far.

In addition, SAFEPOD can be set up and deployed in “hot spots” in collaboration with in-field testing data to ensure the deployment is aligned with areas of outbreak, he says.