Pioneer Valley colleges putting protective equipment in hospitals’ hands

  • Pierre Rouzier, front, who is the medical consultant for the face shield response team, stands beside Erin Poulin, left, the lab manager for University Health Services who is in charge of the viral transport media response team, Rebecca Lawlor, a bacteriologist, and Peter Reinhart, the director of the Institute for Applied Life Sciences, Thursday, Apr. 2, 2020 in the Institute for Applied Life Sciences Building at the University of Massachusetts. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pierre Rouzier, front, who is the medical consultant for the face shield response team, stands beside Erin Poulin, left, the lab manager for University Health Services who is in charge of the viral transport media response team, Rebecca Lawlor, a bacteriologist, and Peter Reinhart, the director of the Institute for Applied Life Sciences, Thursday, Apr. 2, 2020 in the Institute for Applied Life Sciences Building at the University of Massachusetts. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton firefighter Meagan Pike begins to unload meals donated by Smith College, Friday, Apr. 3, 2020 at Northampton High School, which is being used as a 48-cot emergency shelter. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lucas Laing of Northampton, a volunteer, carries meals donated by Smith College into Northampton High School, Friday, along with Jeff Brown, a part-time intermittent officer for Northampton Police. Northampton firefighter Meagan Pike, background, unloads the cargo. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton firefighter Meagan Pike, Northampton policeman Jeff Brown and Lucas Laing of Northampton, a volunteer, place boxes of meals donated by Smith College on a table, Friday, Apr. 3, 2020 at Northampton High School, which is serving as a 48-cot emergency shelter. Meal choices were beef, broccoli and rice, salmon and potatoes, or vegetarian. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northampton firefighter Meagan Pike, Northampton policeman Jeff Brown and Lucas Laing of Northampton, a volunteer, place boxes of meals donated by Smith College on a table, Friday, Apr. 3, 2020 at Northampton High School, which is serving as a 48-cot emergency shelter. Meal choices were beef, broccoli and rice, salmon and potatoes, or vegetarian. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/5/2020 7:11:15 PM

AMHERST — As the COVID-19 pandemic leaves hospitals scrambling to answer personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages, local colleges are pitching in with supplies, 3D printing technology and on-campus housing donations.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is putting its Digital Media Lab’s 3D Innovation Center to use to produce supplies such as ventilator parts and face shield frames, said Peter Reinhart, director of the Institute For Applied Life Sciences at UMass. The parts will be provided to local health care facilities including Baystate Medical Center, Cooley Dickinson Hospital and other Springfield clinics. Currently, the university is finalizing prototypes.

Overall, eight or nine different teams are working on innovations in areas that also include rapid diagnostic tools and N95 mask alternatives, Reinhart said.

Additionally, the university is using its cell culture facility to produce viral transport media, which is used in the COVID-19 testing process. There’s currently a shortage of the media even as testing becomes more available.

“Even though the supply of COVID-19 test kits has increased dramatically, what is not available is the actual transport media for taking the transport sample and shipping them off to the testing labs,” Reinhart said.

Smith College President Kathleen McCartney announced Friday that the college is donating on-campus housing to Cooley Dickinson Hospital “to support the hospital’s needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Spokeswomen from Smith and Cooley Dickinson said the two organizations are currently discussing how the housing donation will be used, but declined to specify options being considered.

Smith is also working with the city of Northampton to provide 250 cots and 80 meals per day to the local homeless community, McCartney said, which will extend sheltering capacity.

Area colleges, including UMass, have also pitched in with PPE materials now in high demand and short supply at hospitals locally and around the country. At Holyoke Community College, PPE materials once set aside for health science programs are now in the hands of area hospitals, providing essential protections such as N95 masks, exam gloves, isolation gowns, hand sanitizer, microbial wipes and goggles.

Mount Holyoke College donated 248 boxes of protective gloves, 750 surgical masks and N95 respirators each, almost 100 lab coats and eye protection equipment such as face shields, googles and safety glasses from its Fimbel Maker & Innovation Lab, as well as campus health services.

At the Fimbel Lab, Mount Holyoke is also working with 3D printers and laser cutters to make face shields, which are in the prototype phase.

At Hampshire College, staff and faculty gathered an assortment of exam gloves and smaller amounts of N95 masks, goggles, disposable aprons, shoe covers, and monitoring equipment such as three portable echocardiogram machines, a pulse oximeter and 14 peak flow meters measuring how fast air leaves a patient’s lungs. The supplies would have normally been used in lab courses.

Amherst College has also donated over 300 boxes of gloves, with each box containing 100 gloves each. Additionally, the college also donated disposable gowns, Tyvek suits, N95 masks and googles to Baystate Medical Center, the Amherst Fire Department, and the Whately Fire and Police Department.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.



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