Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid-19 in India: Battery-operated robots help hospitals clean wards

Nithin Belle /Pune
Filed on August 2, 2021

Supplied photo

Supplied photo

Non-human intervention aims to keep the contagion at bay.

One of the toughest challenges that confront hospitals treating Covid-19 patients in India is cleaning up the wards and intensive care units (ICUs) occupied by those battling the deadly viral disease.

Many of those involved in cleaning, which is extremely important to tackle the menace, face the risk of getting infected with SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.

The alternative is to deploy robots that could be used to clean the wards.

However, with Covid-19 travel restrictions, it was difficult for a hospital in Vadodara, Gujarat, to trace such robots or even import them.

“We decided to design and develop a robot to tackle this problem,” Om Prakash Shukla, a professor at Parul University, which also has a 750-bed hospital, told Khaleej Times. “The lockdown deprived us of accessing technology, but we managed to develop robots by using PVC pipes and without opting for welding,” he said.

The innovative project, called Clenoroboflex, is the latest addition to the university’s list of technologies developed in-house. The remote-controlled vacuum cleaner, with a 15-metre-long range, makes it easy to clean wards tackling infectious diseases.

“The device can be operated by a staffer from a safe distance,” said Shukla. “It’ll also reduce the number of people in the wards and the use of multiple cleaning equipment for sanitation.” The robots can also be deployed under the beds and in remote parts of the ward and the hospital, which were difficult for the staff to reach, especially with the fear of the dreadful virus infecting them.

Shukla pointed out that it is important for hospitals to ensure a high degree of sanitation and cleanliness in the wards and rooms, especially with the outbreak of the mucormycosis among Covid-19 patients.

“There’s a need for medical support staff to maintain a limited proximity to Covid-19 and immuno-compromised patients, to curb the rate of cross-infections,” he said. “This kind of an invention really comes in handy in the hospital environment,” he added.

The battery-operated robot can be deployed for two hours and also has a back-up option. And since it is being used in hospitals, the robots have been designed so that they can be easily sterilised for reuse. “Since the robot is made of PVC, it can be easily disinfected by standard disinfecting solutions used in hospitals,” added Shukla.

Incidentally, two other state-owned facilities in Vadodara -- Sir Sayajirao General Hospital, and GMERS Gotri Hospital -- had about a year ago announced the launch of robots to prevent its staff from getting infected. They had invested about Dh247,000 in buying seven robots, which were to serve food and medicines to Covid patients. They were also to help in screening patients in the isolation wards and also those entering the hospital.

Unfortunately, after a trial run, they were dumped.

Other hospitals in Bengaluru, Noida and a few other Indian cities are also experimenting with robots to ensure minimal exposure of staff to patients.

Nithin Belle

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