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Aerosol boxes offered for medical frontliners

/ 04:57 AM May 11, 2020

NECESSITY Medical front-liners examine an aerosol box designed by entrepreneur Gen Belanio and lawyer Rod Libunao. They took this initiative with the help of other partners to help protect health workers from the coronavirus disease. —PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY MIGGO MEJICO

MANILA, Philippines — When Metro Manila was locked down starting mid-March, a Marikina-based producer of customized car stereos used the lull in business to fabricate aerosol boxes and donated these to medical front-liners, giving them an extra layer of protection in the war against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Using acrylic materials that are readily available in his car shop, entrepreneur Genius Belanio of Gen Concept, along Gil Fernando Avenue, created acrylic transparent boxes that are placed over a patient’s head and neck during medical procedures. The aerosol boxes—which have holes where the doctors could insert their hands while performing medical procedures—can be quickly sterilized and reused.

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Aerosol boxes originated in Taiwan based on a prototype designed by Hsien Yung Lai, an anesthesiologist at Mennonite Christian Hospital, who welcomed replication of his design for noncommercial use.

The Taiwanese prototype has since then been replicated, and in some cases, fine-tuned by various groups seeking to fortify medical practitioners’ defenses against the coronavirus, especially amid news that many health care workers were dying in the line of duty.

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“When the pandemic happened, all shops were closed. We were not allowed to operate, so with ninongs (godfathers), we thought of creating aerosol boxes to donate to front-liners,” the 36-year-old Belanio said in a Zoom interview with the Inquirer.

Belanio’s aerosol box project was bankrolled by two of his wedding sponsors, lawyer Rod Libunao and businessman Januario Jesus Atencio, former president of mass housing developer 8990 Holdings who now runs his own asset management firm, Januarius Holdings Inc.

The boxes are designed for medical procedures done on COVID-19 patients in critical condition, particularly those who need to be intubated and placed on a ventilator to assist with breathing.

By blocking aerosols, these boxes provide an extra layer of protection aside from the personal protective equipment worn by doctors and other medical personnel.

Gen Concept’s version of the boxes was designed by Libunao, who’s passionate about this project especially because he has many nieces and nephews in the medical profession who are currently serving as COVID-19 front-liners, Atencio said.

One box a day

Due to manpower constraints during the enhanced community quarantine, Belanio and a lone worker who lives near the shop fabricate the boxes by themselves manually. At present, it takes one whole day to produce one box.

The first 12 of these aerosol boxes have been completed and donated to hospitals such as the Philippine General Hospital and East Avenue Medical Center. But as soon as Gen Concept is able to increase production capacity, Atencio and Libunao have committed to fund at least 100 of these boxes, which cost about P4,500 each to produce.

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“These are really for heavy-duty and are of high-quality,” Atencio said, explaining why Gen Concept’s design costs a bit higher to execute compared to others made locally. Elsewhere in the world, estimated production cost per unit ranges from around $30 to $67.

Not for sale

The group has no intention to sell any of the aerosol boxes, which will all be donated to hospitals in need. Some of the units have reached as far as Calapan, Mindoro, where Libunao’s sister is a doctor.

“Just in case the partial lockdown happens and heaven forbid that there’s going to be more COVID-19 patients, then these things can be really useful,” Atencio said. “Even after the lockdown is lifted, we can still continue to make more,” he said.

Once the rest of his staff return to work and the checkpoints in the metropolis are eased, Belanio said his shop might be able to increase capacity and produce five to 10 pieces each day.

Apart from funding the production of aerosol boxes, Atencio, Libunao and Januarius Holdings also donated an automated RNA (ribonucleic acid) extraction machine to the University of the Philippines-based Philippine Genome Center, aiming to speed up COVID-19 test evaluation analysis and reporting.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .

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TAGS: aerosol boxes, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, frontliners
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