Thai expat in the U.S. helps design mobile COVID-19 isolation units

A Thai expatriate in Illinois has helped design a mobile isolation unit for COVID-19 patients so that doctors and healthcare personnel can treat them with minimal risk of infection.

The expatriate, Thanet Natsiri, said he has already received funding from hospitals in Thailand to build the first 100 units of his “Mobile Negative Pressure Isolation Unit” and hopes to produce more. He said he is donating the units to Thai hospitals and medical workers on the frontlines of the pandemic response.

Thailand and the United States have been scrambling to make and provide personal protective equipment for medical personnel treating coronavirus patients. The isolation units would provide another layer of protection.

Thanet and his team also want to donate some of the devices to the United States. “These could be very useful in New York,” Thanet told Thailand Focus.

That desire has been complicated, however. Thailand is under an emergency decree, and shipments of medical equipment overseas have been limited for the moment. Thanet said his team is looking into how they can get units to America.

This isn’t the first time that Thanet, who most Marion residents know as the owner of Thai D restaurant, has used his ingenuity and innovative skills to save lives. He was a key technical contributor in the rescue mission of 19 young soccer players trapped in a cave in northern Thailand in 2018.

A groundwater specialist with American Groundwater Solutions, Thanet devised a way to control the water levels inside the cave so that diving teams could reach the soccer players and carry them out to safety.

Thanet was in Thailand recently working on a charity project involving irrigation for farmers when he learned about the needs of doctors and hospitals. Although he returned to Marion, he has been working remotely with a team in Thailand consisting of engineers and researchers from his company and also the Energy Research Integrate Group Association, of which he is vice president.

“We have been working closely with doctors regarding the design in our workshop in Khon Kaen province. They told us how they wanted the unit to function, and we designed the material, modified the technology and the layout of each component accordingly,’’ said Thanet, who is the design team leader.

“Three of our finished prototype units are now being tested in Phra Mongkut Hospital in Bangkok. And we are waiting for feedback from doctors to make any final adjustments to the design before it goes into full production,’’ Thanet told Thailand Focus.

Photo credit: Thanet Natsiri