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Nurse Christopher Darby, left, SVMC's Emergency Department clinical coordinator, and physician's assistant Karena Webber use the mask developed in partnership with Mack Molding in this image shared by SVMC.

Mack Molding, SVHC Partner to Develop Protective Masks for Hospital Workers

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BENNINGTON, Vt. — Mack Molding and Southwestern Vermont Health Care have partnered to develop an innovative alternative for personal protective equipment for the health system. 

Similar to the rest of the country, southern Vermont has not been immune to the challenges of acquiring PPE during the COVID-19 crisis, and most specifically disposable masks. Through their collaboration, Mack and SVHC began investigating alternative mask options that could be modified since N95s masks and 7700 respirators are in high demand.

The collaboration arose out of personal connections. Kevin Dailey, the vice president of administration and chief human resources officer at SVHC, had led human resources at Mack until five years ago. He knew the type of specialty plastics manufacturing and rapid product development Mack was capable of.

When it was clear that PPE would likely run short, he gave his friends there a call. Realizing the extraordinary tight time-frame and regionally important challenge, Mack — a leading supplier of contract injection molded plastic parts to companies in a range of industries — called on Adam Lehman, president of their subsidiary, Synectic, to identify immediately available options that could be redesigned to function as a respirator. Lehman located a snorkeling mask that the Synectic design team could quickly reengineer into PPE. 

"When I informed Synectic's team about this project, they were ready and excited for the challenge," said Jeff Somple, president at Mack, headquartered in nearby Arlington. "It was an opportunity for some groundbreaking innovation and to make a meaningful difference for our region's front line health care workers."

After only two 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 thus does not require the use of disposable masks and shields. Their engineers removed the part that usually protrudes out of the water when snorkeling and replaced it with a new, custom-designed branched component equipped with cartridges containing P100 HEPA filters.

"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 health care 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. Each employee receives cleaning and storage guidelines, instructing how to disinfect and store their mask after each shift. The custom snorkeling branch modification and P100 HEPA filter casings can be easily removed for cleaning and screwed securely back in place. 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 site and allows patients to see their physicians’ and nurses’ faces more clearly.

"Our priority is to ensure the safety of our staff while caring for patients during the pandemic," said registered nurse Shiela Boni, nursing director and PPE officer for SVHC. "The retrofitted scuba mask accomplishes this while decreasing our dependence on disposable masks."

Unlike medically approved respirators, the scuba mask has been adapted to meet the filtration requirements of personal protective equipment. The risk assessment conducted by Mack's design 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 the traditional N95 masks. Less than three weeks after the initial request to Mack, their subsidiary Synectic delivered 500 scuba masks and 2,000 N100 HEPA filter casings to the hospital.

Thomas A. Dee, SVHC's president and CEO, 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."


Tags: COVID-19,   SVMC,   


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Southwestern Vermont Health Care Launches Virtual Urgent Care

BENNINGTON, Vt. — Southwestern Vermont Health Care has launched a virtual urgent care platform called CAREqd to improve access to medical care. 

In medical terminology, "qd" is shorthand for "every day." Through CAREqd the community can receive urgent care at any time of day, every day. CAREqd can be accessed through a live, secure video connection on its website or a mobile app for smartphones.

"Our mission of exceptional care drives us to provide our community with increased access and convenience," said Dr. Trey Dobson, the medical center’s chief medical officer. "The CAREqd virtual urgent care platform is a way to extend the use of technology to make high-quality care even easier for patients."

The CAREqd platform provides patients access to urgent care around the clock every day of the year, including weekends and holidays. Patients can access urgent care from anywhere by phone or from an internet-enabled device, whether they are at home, at work or traveling. The mobile app makes it quick and easy to access a provider from a smartphone or tablet.

CAREqd is secure, confidential and easy to use. Patients create a free account online or via the mobile app and fill out their brief medical history. There is no cost to activate the account. When they need it, patients can request a video or phone visit at a time that fits their schedule or see a provider right away. 

The CAREqd providers can diagnose, recommend treatment and prescribe medication for a wide range of conditions, including allergies, cough, diarrhea, earache, fever, flu, insect bites and stings, nausea, pink eye, rash, respiratory problems, and more.

SVMC has partnered with MDLive, a national virtual urgent care system, to develop CAREqd. Partnering with MDLive also brings a broad network of more than 1,000 providers, including physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners. When patients use CAREqd they can choose between an SVMC/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam provider or an MDLive provider that has particular expertise and experience in diagnosing and treating urgent care conditions over the phone and using video.

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