A local non-profit is working with medical staff at Queen Victoria Hospital to 3D print reusable face shields.
Doctors across the province have said there is a critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks and shields, for frontline workers battling COVID-19.
At a press conference last week, B.C.’s top doctor, Bonnie Henry, said health workers are going through PPE units at a much higher rate than expected.
The Revelstoke Idea Factory is aiming to help with that shortage.
“This idea just aligned with everything we want to do,” company spokesperson Jason Zimmer said, noting how the COVID-19 crisis is spurring innovation and creativity.
The group has launched a GoFundMe to help raise funds to purchase the equipment and materials to produce face shields. Revelstoke Idea Factory said it hopes to buy an additional 3D printer.
All the work is done by volunteers.
Since the shields are made using a 3D printer, Zimmer said they cost about $2 each to produce.
The Queen Victoria Hospital has already placed an order for 300 face shields.
As of March 31, the GoFundMe has raised $10,800.
The Revelstoke Credit Union alone donated $8,500 towards the project overnight.
“The response has been completely overwhelming,” said Zimmer.
The City of Revelstoke said it will provide additional funding for the project by placing an order worth roughly $18,000, paid with money primarily through the Rural Dividend Grant and the Economic Opportunity Fund.
The city noted it will allocate additional funds up to $7,000.
“Our community is facing a health crisis of unknown proportion,” said Mayor Gary Sulz.
“I am thrilled that we have such an innovative group of people in our community who have seen the need and used their skills and equipment to respond so quickly to produce personal protective equipment for use by our medical teams.”
The Revelstoke Idea Factory aim was to produce 100 shields by March 31 and 90 per day as of April 2.
While the shields have been approved by the local hospital, Zimmer said the hope is to distribute them across the province.
The non-profit group has an upcoming meeting with Interior Health officials to seek approval for them to be used elsewhere.
While China is donating 100,000 units of PPE over the next six months, a doctor in Kelowna said this week that shipment won’t even make a dent.
“The estimate is that we will need at least 200 million units of PPE over the next six months,” said Dr. Janneme Frouws.
According to an email, Interior Health is collecting used disposable N95 masks to sterilize and store as part of a provincial initiative for bacups.
The agency said Vancouver Coastal will head up the sterilization process.
Creative folks around the world are also using 3D printers to help the globally strained medical system.
For example, a teacher in West Vancouver has converted his school’s collection of 3D printers into a small factory to produce mask straps. A Seattle non-profit is also using 3D printers to produce reusable protective masks.
Another Revelstoke company, Monashee Spirits Craft Distillery, has halted producing spirits to make free disinfectant to help with the lack of sanitizer.
The Revelstoke Idea Factory continues to look for other ideas related to COVID-19 to help equip the local medical community.