Trudeau gives kudos to Kitchener company for its temporary hospital walls

A Kitchener-based company that makes building materials out of recycled materials was mentioned by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his morning briefing Tuesday for its work to create temporary walls for hospital emergency departments.

'We’re just so happy to do our small part,' Trusscore owner Dave Caputo says

These temporary walls, shown in a hospital in Hanover, Ont., are currently being used in 10 hospitals. Trusscore says it plans to scale up production of the walls, which provide more physical separation in hospital emergency departments. (Submitted by: Trusscore)

A Waterloo region company has been recognized by the prime minister for building large panels that create more physical separation between people in hospital emergency departments.

During his briefing Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talked about Trusscore, a building material company headquartered at Communitech in Kitchener and with a factory in Palmerston, as an example of Canadian companies pitching in to fill gaps presented by the COVID-19 crisis. 

The company's owner, Dave Caputo, said as concerns started mounting about COVID-19, he and other company executives talked about what they could do to help.

"We were just doing what probably every company in the country was doing, was planning their response internally to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we decided to turn the question around and asked ourselves, what can we do to make a difference," Caputo said Tuesday after the company was mentioned by Trudeau.

Ready to scale up production

Trusscore made four prototypes, then contacted the emergency departments at St. Mary's General Hospital and Grand River Hospital, both in Kitchener, and asked if they would try out the temporary walls to see if they could work.

"Now they're probably out at 10 hospitals and we're literally sending transport truck loads out to Manitoba and Quebec," said Caputo. Hanover and District Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Guelph General are also using Trusscore's temporary walls. 

Caputo said since Trudeau mentioned the company Tuesday morning, Trusscore has received calls from many other hospitals interested in the product.

They can scale up production, Caputo said, to be able to build up to 400 per day. The temporary walls are made from 100 per cent recyclable materials and Caputo said if there comes a time when the walls are no longer needed, they can reground to be used in other building materials.

'We roll up our sleeves'

Trudeau said the entire team at Trusscore "showed what Canadians do in difficult times."

"We don't back down from a challenge. We roll up our sleeves and we get to work," Trudeau said.

"From coast to coast to coast, businesses are retooling to produce face shields, ventilators, hand sanitizers, and other supplies our healthcare professionals need."

Cheryl Evans, communications director for Grand River Hospital, said the walls separate patients from one another and also nurses, doctors and other people working in the department, which can reduce the spread of COVID-19.

"These walls also help us to conserve the use of personal protective equipment by creating a barrier between patients and staff," Evans said.

She said the community has been "tremendously supportive" in helping local hospitals prepare for COVID-19 and that if people still want to make a donation, hospitals are in need of N95 masks as well as money to secure supplies staff will need in the coming months.

'Happy to do our small part'

Caputo, who is also past chair of the Communitech board of directors, said his company's story is similar to others in Waterloo region of people stepping up, including a recent personal protective equipment donation drive and companies like InkSmith that are 3D printing face shields.

Caputo says his company's hope is that the temporary walls meet a need for now.

"I don't know if we've seen the end of the handshake forever, but we've probably seen the end of someone sick and coughing in an emergency department sitting beside someone who just broke their arm," he said.

"It's something that there might not be a long-term need for, but right now, we're just so happy to do our small part."

Temporary walls built by Trusscore, a startup headquartered in Kitchener with a facility in Palmerston, are being used at Grand River Hospital and at St. Mary's General Hospital, pictured here. The walls are used to separate patients from one another and also nurses, doctors and other people working in the department. (Submitted by: Trusscore)