MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Engineers and mechanics have been working overtime to convert Abbott Northwestern Hospital rooms for the care of COVID-19 patients.

By the end of the week, Abbott will have an additional 63 rooms for patient treatment.

As Bill Hudson shows us, they’re changing the hospital air flow to prevent the virus from migrating.

In his 42 years with Abbott Northwestern, Steve Waderich’s never had to redesign hospital rooms in such rapid order.

“100’s of people are working on this on a daily basis,” Waderich said. “We thought it was going to take weeks.”

In just 10 days, they’ve converted 63 patient rooms into suites with negative air flow.

“We want to keep the air flow going in towards the patient care so it doesn’t get out into the common corridors, where our staff and others are out in that area,” Waderich said.

The COVID-19 virus attaches to tiny airborne particles. So it’s critical to control a hospital’s air flow.

“It’s a high efficiency filtration fan unit,” Waderich said.

Huge induction fans are fitted with special filtering. Moving 4,000 cubic feet per minute, the system will trap the micron-sized virus particles — preventing the spread to other parts of the hospital.

The conversion was fast tracked as other construction work was diverted. Allowing crews to design and build air systems to convert both cardiac and cancer care suites into beds to handle COVID-19 patients.

“So we just redirected our resources from several projects we had going on here at Abbott Northwestern,” Waderich said.

Meantime, Hennepin Healthcare says it can surge an additional 38 ICU beds, if needed. Allowing hospitals to buy much needed time, before any rush of patients sets in.

Bill Hudson

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