IT Sligo answers call to protect frontline workers in fight against Covid-19

At the height of the pandemic there was a severe global shortage and disruption to the supply of PPE caused by unprecedented demand, panic buying and misuse of PPE.

Gardai delivering supplies of face shields produced by IT Sligo to local charities in the North West.

At the height of the pandemic there was a severe global shortage and disruption to the supply of PPE caused by unprecedented demand, panic buying and misuse of PPE.   The Irish Government issued a call through the HSE to the private sector and industry to assist healthcare workers to access supplies of PPE.  

In response IT Sligo formed a cross functional team drawn from the President’s Office, Faculties of Engineering & Design and Science, the Research Office and Students’ Union, and issued a request for volunteers to IT Sligo staff. Over 120 staff volunteers supported the Visor Project which saw IT Sligo manufacture 3 types of visors. 12,000 visors were produced and distributed across the region. IT Sligo collaborated with the HSE on both a regional and national level. A secondary supply of visors was distributed directly to local public and private nursing homes, carer associations, Chime Deaf Society, Garda stations, GP practices, pharmacies, local ambulance services and local authorities across the northwest, west, midlands and east of the country. 

Through IT Sligo’s close networks within its own community there was also an increasing demand for PPE from local voluntary groups. IT Sligo worked closely with local community services for the distribution of face-shields, and with the help of the HSE, Gardai, local authorities, Order of Malta Carrick-on-Shannon, the face-shields were delivered to the areas where they were needed most. IT Sligo also worked closely with the HSE to source surgical gowns and surgical masks on their behalf. 

IT Sligo found that there was no formal guidance or documentation to develop visors using local resources and developed a simple protocol to match the increasing demand for PPE.  Healthcare workers across the region relied heavily on IT Sligo’s PPE to protect themselves and their patients from infection; a sentiment the project team has heard echoed in the many conversations with local and regional government agencies and NGO’s.   

In conjunction with colleagues at Sligo University Hospital IT Sligo designed and prototyped ventilators using readily available components. The project was spearheaded by colleagues from Faculty of Engineering & Design and developed one of the first working prototypes of its kind in Ireland. The design of these ventilators has been made available on open source. The Institute also co-designed a Visor Clip with local Garda which helps ensure their safety.