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Unique COVID-19 greeting pod aims to bring families together again

North Bay businesses team up to allow families to connect with loved ones at retirement homes
20200720 greeting pod
Marc Udeschini (left), president of NorEnvironmental International, and Don Croteau, managing director at Schauenburg Industries, stand in front of their unique greeting pod made in North Bay. (Chris Dawson/BayToday.)

Marc Udeschini recalls being very touched when he saw a story about family members visiting a loved one at a nursing home. Of course, due to COVID-19, the visit was very different.  

"They were in the garden knocking on the window, which was closed, and I thought we could do better than that to bring families together," said Udeschini. 

Udeschini, the president of NorEnvironmental International, took the idea to Schauenburg Industries and the two North Bay companies worked together to create a unique greeting pod that could be used at retirement homes as a meeting place for families and residents.  

It's one of a series of similar units being manufactured and marketed under the VEMDE Modular Pod System brand.

"We worked to develop a modular system that would allow for the facilities to place on their property a solution that would help family members visit with residents in a comfortable and safe way," said Udeschini. 

This is the second COVID-19 project that Udeschini has been involved with this year. In April, NorEnvironmental unveiled a plan to set up a decontamination centre for personal protective equipment (PPE).

Udeschini said the shelter, which has a clear plastic screen between the two sides, was developed to protect the resident.  

"But they had to be in a safe room and we realized the only way to do that is to use a very high-quality HEPA filter that would ensure there was a positive pressure in the section," explained Udeschini.  

"The shelter is divided into two sections – a visitors' section and a residents' section. The residents' section is protected by a positive airflow, which is a HEPA filter, which hospitals use, and it ensures under no circumstances there can be any cross-contamination between the two sections of the shelter." 

For Schauenburg's managing director, Don Croteau, the idea of having these greeting pods really hit home. 

"My dad went into a nursing home in Sudbury at the end of January, so for the first month we were able to go visit him, but then COVID-19 hit and I went one morning and the doors had just closed a half hour before I got there," said Croteau. 

"When Marc came in with the idea we saw this as something we could definitely manufacture. That would allow me or many others in the same boat to be able to go in and visit. Not just maybe with one person but you could have your family go together to visit your loved one."

Croteau and Udeschini are hoping to test their prototype greeting pod at a local retirement home in the near future. 

"One of the facilities offered us to set up the pod at their facility and work with them to see if we can make an effective solution for them both for now and perhaps even in the future when other threats may become an issue, " said Udeschini.   

"The shelter is a modular shelter, built in North Bay by a company that has the skills and the abilities to develop these shelters and our hope is we can distribute them across the country."