A global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment that was putting thousands of healthcare workers at great risk has led to an “Apollo 13 moment” at a Richmond plastics company — and major relief to Reid Health’s clinical staff on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The new virus outbreak worldwide, along with panic buying and hoarding, left health systems dangerously ill-equipped to care for new patients due to limited supplies of gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields and gowns. So in what company officials are calling their own “Apollo 13 moment,” Primex Plastics is already making two different kinds of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that Reid Health officials say will greatly enhance their ability to protect staff during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
In a series of almost miraculous circumstances, Primex developed, designed and scheduled mass production – all in just two days — of face shields to be used with special protective helmets at Reid that protect staff dealing with contagious airborne disease. As word spread, the company is also ramping up production to help other healthcare providers.
“We can’t overstate the positive impact this will have on our team members on the frontlines in facing this outbreak, especially when our heroes are from our own community.” Craig Kinyon, Reid Health President/CEO
“We can’t overstate the positive impact this will have on our team members on the frontlines in facing this outbreak, especially when our heroes are from our own community,” said Craig Kinyon, Reid Health President/CEO. He said the production of these shields will greatly enhance the safety of his team. “We have to protect our team or we risk not having people to care for patients. The team at Primex truly stepped up on our behalf – and with unbelievable speed.”
Scott Rauch, Reid Health Vice President, cited “an amazing” series of events that led to Primex getting involved. Brent Cotter, who is a manager in the Material Services department at Reid that deals with supplies, suggested this past Sunday the idea of asking if a local plastics company could help with the shortage of shields. Rauch happens to attend a Bible study with Dale Blunk, who works in inside sales at Primex. Rauch reached out Sunday evening.
Blunk then contacted coworkers in production and design. By early Monday morning the Primex and Reid Health teams were at the table with a sample of what Reid needed. Then the Primex team went to work.
Doug Borgsdorf, Business Unit Director, who runs the division that is making the shields, said his team from production and design took Reid’s sample and gathered samples of other products. “We took all the things we have in our building that we make, threw them on the table and said ‘here it is: our Apollo 13.’ We all sat down – eight feet apart – and said, ‘how do we do this?'”
Borgsdorf said their main product up to now was returnable protective packaging. “Now we were looking at protective packaging for people.” Other things had to fall into place, and they did. Suppliers responded quickly with materials needed. The type of plastic necessary for the special shields happened to be the type in production currently at their factory – so the right material was immediately available.
After a few tries with design, the shield for the helmets was ready. As a bonus, another prototype that doesn’t involve a helmet was also created. Reid Health liked it so well, they ordered a supply of them too. After 1,000 of the first shield is produced and delivered, they will produce the second one soon after. The second one will alleviate a shortage of goggles by providing eye protection and also protect the masks under it, allowing them to be used longer and conserve a limitedsupply.
Borgsdorf said Mike Cramer, company president, was in full support of the effort of Primex in supporting Reid.
Sam Iden, M.D., Reid Emergency, said the equipment will play a huge role in reducing staff anxieties as they treat a growing number of patients. “I am so very appreciative of their efforts and assistance. We were becoming critically low on vital protective gear due to nationwide supply chain issues. Primex and its employees are playing a vital role in protecting healthcare workers and saving lives. Personally I now have a greater comfort in knowing that when I need to do an invasive procedure that puts the team at risk we have the tools needed to stay safe. I am so proud of our entire community and there outpouring of support.”
Stephanie Burden, manager of emergency nursing at Reid Health, said the Primex crew “dropped everything. They were all hands on deck” as they took Reid’s existing helmets and quickly worked to design the replacement. “It’s such a relief to the staff,” she said, noting how emergency workers are part of the frontlines of such an outbreak. “We couldn’t use the helmets at all without the shields,” she said.
Darin Dubbs, Director of Human Resources at Primex, said this was a bright spot during a very trying time we are all facing today. “This time is not about business. It is a time of unity,” he said. “Our ability to help in the crisis has been uplifting to the employees at Primex. We are happy to be able help Reid Health and others in the community, and continue to provide stable employment to our employees.”
As news has spread on social media, Borgsdorf said Primex is getting numerous requests from other hospitals and health systems, and is now on track to make 100,000 shields.
Jennifer Bales, M.D., Reid Health’s Chief of Staff and also an ER physician, said Primex’s efforts brought hope. ” There are not many bright moments in the preparation for this crisis, but when the community becomes part of our team, I can see a gleam of hope. We will face the threat ahead together, with stronger armor thanks to Primex’s efforts.”
Amanda Martinez, RN, Clinical Practice Leader in Reid’s ER, says the impact is significant for her team. “We are really grateful for what they were able to do for us,” she said. “Honestly, the need for these things is probably going to get greater.”
“We will face the threat ahead together, with stronger armor thanks to Primex’s efforts.” — Jennifer Bales, M.D. Chief of Staff