Tygerberg doctors keep safe from Covid-19; use modified snorkel masks

By Jarryd Neves

By now, we are well aware of the benefits that wearing a mask provides. Well it doesn’t provide full protection from the dangers of Covid-19, wearing a mask – along with frequent hand-washing and social-distancing – has been shown to curb the spread of Covid-19. However, medical professionals and those who work on the frontline have to rely on more than the aforementioned basics.

Doctors at Tygerberg Hospital have come up with an ingenious solution to keeping safe from the dangers of Covid-19. Medical staff at the largest hospital in the Western Cape are now able to make use of specially modified snorkel masks, to prevent the risk of contracting the virus when administering medical assistance to critically ill patients.

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Usually worn to take in the gorgeous scenery to be found under the water surface, these masks offer the wearer superior protection, covering the entire face and forming a tight, protective seal. These masks have been modified for purpose; a breathing filter now takes the place of the snorkel. According to the media release, “Using these full-face modified snorkel masks, the doctors are now completely protected from breathing in the Covid-19 virus whilst performing highly contagious airway procedures.”

After being shown the mask by a fellow diving aficionado, Dr Lizelle van Wyk, a neonatologist and paediatrician at Tygerberg approached two of her colleagues, Dr Jack Meintjies and Professor Pierre Goussard, in order to adapt the mask to their specifications and get it approved.

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Currently, the refashioned snorkel masks are used by the paediatricians to perform medical procedures such as intubations and bronchoscopies on children who may have Covid-19. Recently, the hospital has obtained 300 SEAC® Libera snorkel masks, which have been adapted for use by doctors, nurses and various healthcare workers. This innovative solution will now help to prevent the spread of Covid-19 from patients to our essential frontline workers.

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