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Lake Regional, Springfield Company Innovate Solution to PPE Shortage

Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Atlas UV Aaron Fields

UV Sterilization Device Helps Hospital Extend Mask Life, Protect Caregivers

When Lake Regional Health System needed to conserve its supply of N95 masks, Fields Mechanical Systems in Springfield, Missouri, and AAON Inc. in Tulsa, Oklahoma, formed an innovative solution: the Atlas UV Disinfectant Device. Using UV rays, the companies created a way to sterilize personal protective equipment for Lake Regional and other hospitals in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, as the public health crisis grew, hospitals nationwide were competing for the same resources, including personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses. Lake Regional began looking for ways to conserve their supply, an effort that involved all levels of the organization.

Jimmy Miller, manager of Engineering HVAC at Lake Regional, approached Aaron Fields, president of Fields Mechanical Systems, about the hospital’s need for masks. Miller and Fields had previously worked together on Lake Regional’s HVAC system, which uses ultraviolet light to keep its filters and coils clean. N95 masks are also a type of filter, and Miller thought they might be reusable if disinfected.

“It got me thinking, ‘What can I do to help?’” Aaron Fields said. “I thought about what had been tested and proven. That sparked my idea to make a cabinet with enough UV-C rays to disinfect their masks.”

Aaron Fields took the idea to his brother, Gary Fields, the president and chief executive officer of AAON, Inc., a leading manufacturer of heating and cooling products headquartered in Tulsa. They and the AAON engineering team developed a prototype for the Atlas UV Disinfectant Device in just two weeks.

“This innovative technology allowed us to extend the use of a single N95 mask from five days of use to 35 days of use,” said Kevin McRoberts, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Lake Regional Health System. “That was a game changer for us. It meant we could continue protecting our employees and our patients throughout this crisis.”

According to Aaron Fields, the device is very easy to use: The health care worker hangs the masks from the sliding racks that load in the cabinet, closes the door and starts the machine. The cabinet, which holds approximately 30 masks, uses a high dose of UV-C to disinfect the masks.

UV has long been used in health care for disinfection. Aaron Fields used existing studies on UV-C disinfectant capabilities to determine how many microwatts per centimeter-squared are needed to kill bacteria and viruses, and therefore what was needed in the cabinets.

“We’ve made revisions based on feedback from the prototypes in the different facilities,” he said. “Within two weeks, we made this idea an actual reality. And now, AAON is ready to ship the final devices.”

When the first Atlas was completed, Aaron Fields drove roundtrip to Tulsa so that he could pick up and donate the device to Lake Regional in Osage Beach on Saturday, April 4. The hospital put the Atlas into use within the week.

“When I learned we were getting the Atlas, I was so proud,” McRoberts said. “Jimmy and Aaron, working together, found a solution that will protect our patients and caregivers, as well as others throughout the state using this device. We are grateful to Aaron for working with our organization and for donating this lifesaving technology.

“Without the help of our vendors and the community, I’m not sure we would have been able to weather the COVID-19 storm as well as we have,” McRoberts continued. “We are very thankful.”

Watch McRoberts, Miller and Aaron Fields discuss the Atlas UV Disinfectant Device.

Lake Regional Health System provides comprehensive health care services to residents and visitors throughout the mid-Missouri region. The hospital is a Level II Stroke Center, Level II STEMI (heart attack) Center and Level III Trauma Center. Lake Regional also provides a wide range of specialty care, including cancer care, heart care and orthopedics. Plus, Lake Regional operates primary care clinics, Express Care clinics, rehab therapy clinics, programs for home health and hospice, and retail pharmacies. To learn more, visit lakeregional.com.

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Photo caption: An Atlas UV Disinfectant Device coming off the production line at AAON in Tulsa.