These Islanders are moving quickly to produce protective medical equipment

The University of Prince Edward Island and a marine technology company have each independently turned their expertise to producing personal protective equipment for the Island’s health care workers.

Face shields already in production

A small crew is working on personal protective equipment at UPEI's school of sustainable design engineering. (UPEI)

The University of Prince Edward Island and a marine technology company have each independently turned their expertise to producing much-needed personal protective equipment for the Island's health care workers.

The faculty of sustainable design engineering at UPEI is already producing face shields, and has produced prototypes for surgical masks and N95 masks that are now being evaluated for eventual approval as Class 1 medical devices.

'We started about two days ago, but we're looking at having about a thousand, or a little over a thousand, face shields made by Tuesday," said sustainable design engineering dean Nick Krouglicof.

"We're also looking at partnering with some local companies that have the licensing in place so they could probably distribute it to Health PEI much easier than we could. So there's a number of things that we're looking at to sort of expedite the process."

In a Monday afternoon news briefing, Health PEI's chief of nursing Marion Dowling emphasized the need for additional medical equipment on P.E.I., and the challenges of obtaining them.

"We have approached — and some local companies have approached us — to help support our supply for some of these items," she said.

A small crew of faculty, staff engineers and technologists are involved in the project. The work has been designated essential so it can continue. No students are involved. Krouglicof said they want to keep the staff small to make physical distancing during design and manufacturing easier.

The faculty has been able to order some supplies, and access others from the Atlantic Veterinary College on campus.

"We haven't even really worried about money yet," Krouglicof said.

"I hate to think what finance is going to tell me because we've just been going ahead for now. We figure we'll worry about money later."

Switching up production

The team at UPEI is not alone in its attempts to quickly innovate solutions during this pandemic.

On a normal day MarineNav, based in Panmure Island in eastern P.E.I., is busy manufacturing bespoke computer displays and remote-operated underwater vehicles.

It may seem like a stretch to move from manufacturing remote screens to protective face masks, but not to the designers at MarineNav. (Pat Martel/CBC)

That seems like a long way from face shields for health-care workers, but the company's accounts manager Harold Phillips said they quickly realized it isn't.

"Being a group of designers and engineers we figured, well, what better time to put our minds to work and come up with something that helps alleviate the stress and anxiety that everyone is feeling at this time?" said Phillips.

The company already had all the supplies it needed to produce the shields.

Demand for the MarineNav's regular products has fallen during the pandemic, and like many manufacturers it has had to lay off staff. But Phillips said those laid-off workers have volunteered to come in and produce the face shields.

The company is inviting a health-care facility on the Island that needs the face shields to contact them, and it will supply them free of charge.

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning


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