Tubing, a control panel, and “hands” to automatically squeeze an airbag, comprise the simple and compact Alberta E-Vent — an invention designed to help healthcare workers better care for patients in respiratory distress. (Photo contributed)

Tubing, a control panel, and “hands” to automatically squeeze an airbag, comprise the simple and compact Alberta E-Vent — an invention designed to help healthcare workers better care for patients in respiratory distress. (Photo contributed)

New resuscitator piloted in central Alberta to help rural COVID-19 patients

Hospitals without ventilators to benefit

A made-in-Alberta, lifesaving device for people in respiratory distress is being piloted in central Alberta.

In late August, Provost Health Centre in Provost — a hospital which does not have a conventional ventilator — received an Alberta E-Vent for short-term respiratory support, monitoring and treatment of adult patients, said Alberta Health Services in a statement.

Without conventional ventilators, staff must manually squeeze an airbag for a patient every six seconds which may be required for several hours.

“Provost asked for our help. They had to manually ventilate an intubated COVID-positive patient awaiting transport for approximately four hours,” said Rena Sorensen, professional practice lead for respiratory therapy in AHS central zone, who has guided rural sites through the purchase of conventional ventilators and training as part of a larger provincial rural ventilation project.

Provost staff received E-Vent training in September.

Provost has two E-Vents, and two were sent to Castor and Drayton Valley as part of the evaluation. Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre has one E-Vent as a training unit only.

After the pilot, and once the healthcare team is satisfied with the device, additional E-Vents will be sent to any other rural sites in the central zone that don’t currently have access to a ventilator.

Exergy Solutions, of Calgary, developed the E-Vent and donated 200 of the devices to AHS.

Conventional ventilators often cost upwards of $30,000. At some rural sites, foundations or auxiliaries raise money to buy the machines for their local hospitals, while other sites simply go without and rely on manual bagging, or transport to larger sites.

“This could be a life-sustaining device for rural ER sites,” said Brant Poirier, area director for central zone – south.

“This is compact, simple and requires very little training. As the pandemic is with us for some time yet, we are grateful to have a tool like this in our toolkit.”


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Leading up to the E-Vent, an AHS interdisciplinary healthcare team collaborated to identify innovations to manually support bagging for extended periods of time at rural sites without ventilators.

When Exergy first approached AHS with its idea, it led to the creation of a multidisciplinary group called the Ventilator Collaborative, which also brought together clinicians and industry representatives and involved a cross-provincial team of volunteers and collaborators.

Exergy Solutions, a Calgary-based engineering firm with a specialty in design, prototyping and fabricating, is located in the Life Sciences Innovation Hub, operated by Innovate Calgary.

Teams from the University of Calgary, including the Advanced Technical Skills Simulation Laboratory and Schulich School of Engineering, offered support and resources for the mechanical design and testing of the project.

The Provincial Respiratory Equipment Team worked to ensure the new device was cleared for patient use.

“Because the device is new, it had to go through a series of checks with Health Canada. Normally, this process would be lengthier, but there has been a focused effort to move projects such as this along due to the pandemic,” said Roberta Dubois, provincial respiratory practice director who leads the Provincial Respiratory Equipment Team.

Other companies also played pivotal roles in the collaboration, including Logican Technologies and Catch Engineering.

With files from Alberta Health Services


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