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Innovating To Conserve PPE

As soon as we realized COVID-19 was spreading toward our region, Lake Regional personnel immediately sprang into action. From adopting new protocols to briefing staff on the latest information, our efforts spanned all shifts and every department.

Early on, one of our largest concerns was about the health of our frontline care providers. With demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) accelerating, we began to look at our supplies and consider how we might maintain an adequate stockpile.

As Kevin McRoberts, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Lake Regional Health System, puts it, “There was a time where we were questioning whether or not we would have enough equipment in order to protect our staff and care for our patients.”

Construction companies, dental offices and individuals within our community came forward to donate what they had on hand. These donations and others boosted our spirits along with our supplies.

Then, a team comprised of internal staff and external vendors proposed another idea. What if we could find a way to safely conserve the supplies we had?

An engineer from the Lake Regional environmental services department, Jimmy Miller, partnered with an outside HVAC contractor to start working on a device to do just that.

“We made it our goal to give masks a longer life,” according to Aaron Fields, from Fields Mechanical in Springfield, Missouri. Fields found himself working around the clock and helping his engineering counterpart, Jimmy, on what would later become known as the Atlas UV Disinfectant Device.

“As the conversation grew, he mentioned that he wanted to contribute in some way or fashion to help fight this battle,” Miller said. So, the two drew up plans, researched technology and approached a manufacturer with an idea.

AAON, Inc. from Tulsa, Oklahoma stepped up and set aside an entire production line to bring this vision to life.

“The machines are really very simple,” Jimmy Miller says matter-of-factly. After using a mask, a frontline worker is able to hang it inside a cabinet that uses ultraviolet rays to disinfect for use again. The entire process takes three minutes and each cabinet is able to clean thirty-six masks at a time.

And each mask can be cleaned up to seven times, as opposed to being discarded after one use. That’s the equivalent of extending the stockpile of PPE by 700%.

But if you ask Miller and Fields, they’ll tell you they’re just proud to be part of the solution. In fact, Fields Mechanical and AAON donated the device to support Lake Regional’s efforts and recognize the value of the concept brought forth by Jimmy Miller.

COO Kevin McRoberts underscores their appreciation, saying, “We put the Atlas UV Disinfectant Device into use the next week, and it’s been a Godsend.”

You can pitch in, too. Visit lakeregional.com/donatenow to see how.