Published: 06th June 2020
These researchers from AnantU fit a COVID testing centre inside an autorickshaw. Here's how it works
These can both be operated by any government or non-government body that is approved by ICMR to conduct testing activities in their area. The facility only needs a driver and a health worker
The researchers of Anant National University, in Ahmedabad, have designed a compact and contact-free mobile COVID-19 testing and oxygen facility in an autorickshaw. They say it is the most affordable mobile testing and emergency oxygen facility in the world.
The facility fitted inside a cargo auto-rickshaw has two variations — one is the facility for swab collections and it costs Rs 5.1 lakh while the other is for X-ray testing for COVID-19 and is priced at Rs 11.5 lakh, making these the most affordable facilities of their type in the world and therefore suitable to operate on a mass scale in India. The vehicle can also be used as an ambulance or emergency transport vehicle with oxygen. Led by Dr Miniya Chatterji, Director of Anant Centre for Sustainability and CEO Sustain Labs, the project was designed by Dhaval Monani, Director of Affordable Housing and Associate Professor, Anant National University. Joel Fernando, a Visual Designer and Multimedia Associate assisted in the development of the prototype. Anunaya Chaubey, the Provost of the university was the advisor in the project. "We need to ensure access to COVID-19 testing for all in India and oxygen for patients across economic segments. We slashed down the cost of the vehicle and instead invested heavily in high-end medical equipment, such as X-ray testing that is contact-free and gives immediate results as well as automated sanitiser sprays," said Dr Chatterji. "This is in great contrast to popular mobile collections of biospecimens and testing facilities in a bus or truck, where the cost of just the vehicle itself makes mobile collections, testing and mobile oxygen and is expensive and difficult to scale,” added the Director.
But it's not just the cost but the connectivity of the vehicle as well that works in its favour. "The emergency response vehicle is expected to be especially effective as it will be ideal for severe cases when normal ambulances either can't reach. Testing is key — and it has been proven that the best way to test is to go to where the maximum population is," said Dhaval. "It has been seen that the biggest bottleneck is the actual tests and so we have developed a mobile X-ray testing center for preliminary screening incorporating a digital X-ray machine that can immediately show results. Based on this, people who show any congestion can be further tested to cut down on the number of tests," he added.
These can both be operated by any government or non-government body that is approved by the ICMR to conduct testing activities in their area. The facility only needs a driver and a health worker trained to handle the X-ray machine and oxygen supply. The process to transform a cargo auto-rickshaw into an ‘Anant COVID-19 Testing and Oxygen Auto-rickshaw’ takes no more than 3-5 days, said the researchers. The transformation will be done by Anant National University and then transported to anywhere in India. "The design of the vehicle ensures adherence to social-distancing norms. Sanitisation is automated and thorough. The vehicle can travel to inaccessible and cramped urban and rural layouts which are a common feature in India and can conduct testing throughout the day by employing shifts for the driver and health worker," said the researchers. "The swab collections facility also has a separate space for patients to take oxygen in a reclined and cushioned chair. The X-ray testing facility is a one-time-investment, with lowered costs on the vehicle and instead fitted with cutting-edge medical and non-medical equipment which gives immediate results. Owing to the advanced X-ray technology used in the respective facilities as well as the easy door-to-door access of auto-rickshaws even in narrow lanes, the X-ray testing for COVID-19 facility can test 500+ people for COVID-19 in a day. Moderate cases of COVID-19 patients awaiting an ambulance or a hospital bed can benefit from the emergency oxygen supply of the oxygen cylinders installed in the vehicle which can be dropped off at the residence of the patient," they added.
By retrofitting walls as partitions in the auto-rickshaw, they have created isolation chambers for the patient, health worker, and the driver of the vehicle. “The testing challenges in India are unique and we have to slash costs and at the same time give as much functionality as possible. We have re-engineered much of the processes to create a unique rugged vehicle that is the hallmark of what we like to term 'frugal innovation',” said Dhaval.