Collaboration the Key to Assisting with Local PPE Shortage
The education and business communities in Oswego County and beyond have come together to help meet the supply needs of protective face shields for healthcare workers as they combat the current coronavirus crisis.
Tracy Fleming, data coordinator at the Center for Instruction, Technology & Innovation (CiTI BOCES), felt compelled to use his expertise to create a local supply chain to keep up with the growing demand for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers on the frontlines during the global pandemic. Since cases of coronavirus have become widespread throughout the state and Central New York, Fleming created a prototype face shield and inquired with the Oswego County Health Department to assess the need.
“They knew they were going to run short and were concerned about having enough,” he said. “They were shown to first responders and they said, ‘Give us as many as you can make.’”
Renee Fox, Emergency Management Coordinator of Oswego County Emergency Management, said Fleming’s early initiative with his own COVID-19 response to help the community in a collaborative process has been beyond helpful.
“Oswego County has shared in the national struggle to secure personal protective equipment; the importance of being able to have PPE made locally and delivered daily is literally invaluable,” she said. “Even more impressive is the fact that the materials were paid for by individuals who want to help first responders and health care providers. Every time one of these face shields is donned by a provider on the frontlines, they represent local innovation backed by the love and support of the community.”
Fleming said he felt a responsibility to transform his three-dimensional printing with his company “Optional 3-D” to help alleviate the concern of not having enough PPE. With no funds available, Fleming set up a GoFundMe account to fulfill that need throughout Oswego County and the community responded instantly, he said. While over $2,000 has been raised thus far, Fleming said more funds are needed to purchase polycarbonate material for the three-dimensional printing process. That material also is becoming scarce globally, as businesses in many countries also need the product to create their own PPE. He is working with Curbell Plastics, Inc. in Syracuse to have another delivery by month’s end.
“Right now, we are about out of materials; I bought enough materials for 1,600 to 2,000 visors,” Fleming said. “The visors are just the clear part. We are still buying filament for our printers; that’s what I am on my last batch of with the funds we received.”
The Oswego County Emergency Response Team selected the polycarbonate visors, he said, because the clear, tough materials may be decontaminated between uses. Various other forms of PPE are only one-time-use. The local healthcare providers, he said, had compared the product to “being as good as a commercial product used in their facility.” They come with adjustable backstraps and can be snapped together, much like a baseball cap.
CiTi BOCES has allowed its use of its 3-D printer and laser cutter to assist with the production of the face shields, and the organization now has cross-collaboration with Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, which has offered its 21 3-D printers available in its MakerSpace. Locally, Fleming also had enlisted the help of SUNY Oswego facilty member Dan Tryon who is now assisting with the project. Fleming said it is his hope to use a CNC router to cut shields in stacks for a more efficient process.
The local partnerships have inspired organizations in Cayuga County to come together to also help its healthcare workforce. Fleming said it has been “truly amazing” to see all the good collaboration occur. Oswego County Legislature Chairman James Weatherup echoed those sentiments.
“We are facing trying times right now. One of our biggest challenges has been finding sources of personal protection equipment for first responders and health care workers,” Weatherup said. “We’re very grateful to Tracy, and the residents and agencies throughout Oswego County, who are developing creative solutions to provide critical supplies and supporting our efforts through donations.”
People who have 3-D printers at home may also help, but Fleming said, “we are holding a very high bar for quality for what we send to the health department.” Community members who want to assist would have to follow design specs and adhere to the quality, he said. For more information, people may email Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org. If the Oswego County community would like to financial help with the cause to produce more face shields for healthcare workers helping to combat the coronavirus pandemic, they may contribute via the following GoFundMe link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/covid-19-face-shields-for-healthcare-providers.