Injection-molded parts contract manufacturer Mack Molding has joined forces with Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) to develop an innovative alternative for personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.
Mack Molding (Arlington, Vt.) produces parts for medtech OEMs and across a variety of industries. Its former human resources head, Kevin Dailey, now works at SVHC. Dailey foresaw a shortage of PPE and knew what Mack was capable of. Dailey called Adam Lehman, president of Mack’s Woodbridge, Conn., subsidiary, Synectic, to identify options that could be redesigned to function as a respirator. Lehman located a snorkeling mask that the Synectic design team could quickly reengineer.
“When I informed Synectic’s team about this project, they were ready and excited for the challenge,” said Mack Molding president Jeff Somple in a news release. “It was an opportunity for some groundbreaking innovation and to make a meaningful difference for our region’s front line healthcare workers.”
After only 2 weeks of design, testing and manufacturing, Mack’s team at Synectic fabricated an attachment to a snorkeling scuba mask. The mask covers the entire face and makes disposable masks and shields unnecessary, according to the company. Their engineers removed the part that usually protrudes from the water when snorkeling and replaced it with a new, custom-designed, branched component equipped with cartridges containing P100 HEPA filters. The custom snorkeling branch modification and P100 HEPA filter casings can be easily removed for cleaning and screwed securely back in place.
“Mack has always been a tremendous regional partner and an integral supporter of the health system for many years,” Dailey said. “As an essential manufacturer of healthcare products, I knew that they would want to help and came through with a brilliant solution for us.”
Each SVHC staff member is fit-tested to ensure an adequate seal and assigned a mask. Employees receive cleaning and storage guidelines, instructing how to disinfect and store theirs mask after each shift. Before each use, staff conduct a positive- and negative-pressure test to ensure the masks are holding up for their protection. The fact that the air intake is above the wearer’s head improves the line of sight and allows patients to see their physicians’ and nurses’ faces more clearly, according to the health system.
“Our priority is to ensure the safety of our staff while caring for patients during the pandemic,” said Shiela Boni, a nursing director and PPE officer for SVHC. “The retrofitted scuba mask accomplishes this while decreasing our dependence on disposable masks.”
The risk assessment conducted by Mack’s design staff and SVHC showed that the mask fully seals around the face with silicone, reducing skin breakdown, and the N100 HEPA filters have a higher rate of filtration than the material in traditional N95 masks.
Less than 3 weeks after the initial request to Mack, Synectic delivered 500 scuba masks and 2,000 N100 HEPA filter casings to the hospital. SVHC president & CEO Thomas Dee expressed relief at having secured the adapted scuba masks to outfit those in the highest risk areas of the hospital.
“This is a great example of how collaboration and innovation sustain us during challenging times,” Dee said. “Our gratitude for the hardworking teams at Mack and Synectic, who put many long hours into this project, cannot be overstated. This is another wonderful example of Mack’s continued support of SVHC.”