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Hamilton Health Sciences Home
April 21, 2020

Innovative, homegrown solutions to PPE shortage

It took less than a week for local company, Printex Transparent Packaging to go from producing boxes for scented colouring markers to making face shields for healthcare workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company produces more clear folded plastic boxes than any other in North America. They typically have up to 250,000 lbs of plastic sheeting in stock—the same plastic that is used in face shields worn by healthcare workers.

“I knew we had the material, and could help,” says sales manager, Dave Tasse. “My son plays hockey with the son of a doctor at HHS, and we connected to see how we could retool our production to make PPE for healthcare workers.”

Tasse got in touch with Bryan Herechuk, Manager of Quality & Value Improvement at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS). The two discussed what would be required for clear plastic face shields to meet hospital standards. Dave’s team created a prototype, which was trialed at HHS hospitals.

“We are doing everything we can to source innovative solutions”

“We are doing everything we can to source innovative solutions and get this equipment into the hands of our staff and doctors,” says Herechuk. “We are working faster and smarter than we ever have to access the PPE we need in new and different ways.”

Within a week of prototyping, the face shields were in mass production at the company’s plants in New York and Quebec.

So far, PT Packaging has shipped 100,000 shields to HHS which are being deployed to frontline workers across the organization. Another large shipment is in production with enhancements to the shield design based on user feedback, and the company is receiving 2 million lbs. of plastic to ramp up production.

“We are now shipping all across North America, but as a born and raised Hamiltonian, our work with HHS has a special spot in my heart.”

Mohawk, HHS partner on face shields

In addition to the shields form PT Packaging, HHS is poised to receive regular shipments from Additive Manufacturing company, located in Oakville. They teamed up with Mohawk College and HHS to design, trial and distribute 3D printed protective face shields for healthcare workers, and will be producing 10,000 units a week.

From sports gear to surgical masks

Another local solution to the global personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage is being trialed right now. Niko Apparel Systems, an athletic garment manufacturer, has partnered with HHS and McMaster University’s Faculty of Engineering to develop hospital-grade surgical masks.

McMaster designed the masks and Niko, which typically produces custom garments for sports teams, has rapidly shifted production. The two groups are working together with HHS to establish a supply chain for materials, testing, and distribution of the finished product.

woman sews a mask at Niko Apparel

“We’ve got great people here in Ontario, and we’ve been able to draw on expertise of local people,” says Joe Camillo, owner of Niko Apparel Systems.

The masks are being tested using strict criteria for filtration efficiency, air flow, fluid resistance and user feedback for fit.

“A great deal of work and collaboration has gone into this project to get these masks to frontline workers as quickly as possible,” says Suvojit Ghosh, who runs McMaster Engineering’s Computing Infrastructure Research Centre. Once they meet testing criteria, they’ll be distributed to frontline workers at HHS.

Another product developed in partnership with McMaster is being deployed to HHS workers this week. Whitebird has developed a protective face shield and is slated to send 100,000 to HHS over the next eight weeks.

Continuing to collect PPE

Given worldwide shortages of PPE, HHS and other hospitals are exploring innovative ways to extend the lifespan of available equipment. That includes adjusting workflow to reduce unnecessary PPE waste, and investigating the safest way to reprocess certain items for reuse.

The hospital continues to seek PPE donations from companies and individuals.

Anyone looking to donate or supply products, please email PPEdonations@hhsc.ca and provide:
1. Product description
2. Product code (if applicable)
3. Identify if the boxes are opened or sealed (if applicable)
4. Contact name, email and phone number

Individuals and businesses looking to sell supplies can email purchasePPE@hhsc.ca with the same information as above.