Robots go to work at field hospital

Robots go to work at field hospital

Military team adapts robots built for the deep South to help doctors

Robots developed by the Defence Technology Institute for bomb disposal have been modified to support the work of medics at the Bussarakham field hospital at Impact Muang Thong Thani. The robots will be delivered to the hospital today.  Chanat Katanyu
Robots developed by the Defence Technology Institute for bomb disposal have been modified to support the work of medics at the Bussarakham field hospital at Impact Muang Thong Thani. The robots will be delivered to the hospital today.  Chanat Katanyu

Budsarakam Hospital for Covid-19 patients at Nonthaburi's Impact Muang Thong Thani is now welcoming three EOD-turned-medical care robots to serve the medical team and patients at the hospital.

They were developed by an engineering military team who expressed a wish to be part of the country's mission to fight the disease.

D-EMPIR CARE, as the project is known, was designed to reduce person-to-person contact amidst the outbreak. The robot comes with a screen and webcam camera for communicating between medical staff and patients.

A joystick controls the robot's movement, together with a microphone and amplifier. There are three trays for carrying food and medical equipment, which can bear a weight of 20 kilogrammes. It can operate for two hours at a stretch.

Watcharee Jornjumrus, director of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) robot research and development at the Defence Technology Institute, said the institute has experience developing EOD robots for military operations in the deep South.

The robot is designed to be able to move though rough terrain, and is made of material which can ensure strong resistance.

"The conditions here are quite smooth, compared to the terrain in the deep South. The 5G communication system also allows them to run smoothly," she said.

She said previously the institute has also given the medical care robot to field hospitals under Phramongkutklao Hospital and the team received good feedback.

"The institute believes that technolo­gy and innovation can reduce the burden on medical staff and increase workplace safety. So, we have adjusted the EOD robot for the medical arena," she added.

"It costs a lot if we have to create a new robot. That is why we have simply adapted the ones we have to serve medical staff. It is our pleasure to help the medical team during the pandemic crisis."

The Defence Technology Institute has developed 10 EOD robots for the deep South, where they can help protect military personnel. The EOD robot was developed by the Thai engineering military team to reduce reliance on imported robots.

This is not the first time the Ministry of Public Health's military partner has offered a helping hand. Budsarakam Hospital, where the robots are operating, was set up by a military team who prepared over 1,000 beds for patients. Hundreds of soldiers worked together to put up the beds in one day.

The first phase opened on May 14 with 1,083 beds and the second on May 28 with 1,078 beds. The hospital admitted 1,706 cases as of June 7, with 928 patients now recovered.

Medical staff from 60 hospitals nationwide are working at the hospital for two weeks at a time. The doctors communicate with patients via video link and read X-ray films via a computer. Any patient who develops a severe condition will be transferred to the hospital.

Anutin Charnvirakul, the minister of health, said Budsarakam Hospital will serve as a model for dealing with such outbreaks in the future.

"We hope not to have to increase beds at the hospital. Budsarakam Hospital will finally end the game. More people are being vaccinated to prevent disease transmission," he said.

The number of new infections is stable with over 2,000 cases per day for the past month, with the hope that new cases will fall after the vaccination rollout reaches more people.

The government plans to provide the first jab of a vaccine to 70% of the population by the end of September. This month, Mr Anutin hopes at least six million doses of vaccines, both from AstraZeneca and Sinovac, will be administered.

Bangkok, with the largest number of infected people, is expected to have provided jabs to five million people by next month.

Meanwhile, the rate of vaccinations at non-hospital sites is around 10,000 people per day.

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