Canadian company using shipping containers to help overwhelmed hospitals

TORONTO — When Sabrina Fiorellino left her construction company during the pandemic, she wanted to help hospital patients and staff the best way she knew how: by converting shipping containers into surgical rooms.

Fiorellino is the owner of Fero International, a Hamilton, Ont.-based company that designs pressurized mobile units aimed at addressing some of the problems the pandemic has caused for hospitals, such as bed shortages and surgical cancellations. Fiorellino says she sees her company as part of the medical solution.

The shipping containers that were once meant for construction projects are now being repurposed to treat patients who otherwise may not have been able to see a doctor because of overburdened hospitals.

Fiorellino said the idea was inspired by her own mother who is a double lung transplant recipient.

“If my mom needed a transplant during COVID, where transplant surgeries are being cancelled or postponed, there could have been a chance that she could have died,” Fiorellino told CTV News Channel on Saturday.

Fiorellino said her company wanted to ensure that these indoor spaces would be safe for both patients and front-line workers. Developers built air handling systems in each container, which allows air to filter, but also prevents cross contaminations between rooms, ultimately reducing air transmission of the virus.

“The pandemic taught us so many things, but one of the things that we learned is that there were high transmission rates indoors,” Fiorellino said.

She says the units use existing technology in an innovative way. For example, each room can alternate between positive and negative pressure, allowing for the room to be used as an ICU and an emergency operating room with the flip of a switch.

The units are also customizable and can be outfitted with ventilators and several other medical devices.

Outside of the heath-care system, the units can also serve as school classrooms, hotels and housing rooms for people who live in remote communities. The containers are equipped to accept various types of power and water systems that can connect to existing infrastructure, she explained.

“If we move the units to a remote community, we can use generator power or clean power to power the units. We can have gas systems that can deliver gas systems and an above ground septic system that can deal with the water,” Fiorellino said.

Fiorellino hopes her units will be used long after the pandemic in places like correctional facilities, long-term care homes, and community housing. 

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