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Local Business Loans PAPRs to Help Protect Frontline Staff

With the battle against COVID-19 occurring around the world, the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been at the forefront of many conversations, public addresses, and media stories. Recognizing this and seeing the many callouts for supplies, one local business realized they were in a unique position to help protect staff at Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH). Weir ESCO has stepped up to temporarily loan the hospital 20 Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs).

Photo ‘PAPRs – Weir ESCO + NHH’: Representatives from NHH and Weir ESCO with PAPRs

The PAPRs on loan are essentially a full head covering with a clear visor at the front, which fit snuggly over the neck, sitting on the shoulders. A battery-operated fan blows filtered air into the helmet-like portion, and the battery pack can be worn around the hips or as a backpack. With filtered circulating air, and the fit of the head covering, PAPRs provide a higher level of comfort to the wearer than other forms of PPE especially when PPE is needed to be worn over a long period of time.

“The timeliness and the speed at which this specialized PPE was made available to us at no cost is moving to see,” says Dr. Mukesh Bhargava, Chief of Staff at NHH. “There is not only a feeling of safety wearing one of these, but also of comfort. The smiles seen on the faces of staff who have worn them are genuine smiles of relief.”

“Some of our employee’s partners work at NHH and we know they, and their colleagues, will be there to take care of us if needed, so we felt the least we could do is help protect some of them,” shares Brad Wannamaker, Site Manager – Port Hope Operations at Weir ESCO. “We’re pleased to be able to assist in helping to protect the NHH team and we only wish we could do more.”

The Port Hope operation of Weir ESCO, a company that engineers, manufactures and services mission critical equipment used by companies in mining and infrastructure, uses PAPRs during their regular operations to protect their staff. Recognizing these could be utilized in a healthcare setting, Wannamaker was quick to contact the NHH Foundation on behalf of Weir ESCO with the offer to loan them to NHH to support the hospital’s pandemic response.

“From the onset of the pandemic, people in our community have been tripping over themselves to help,” says Dr. Michael Barrie, Chief of Anesthesiology at NHH. “From smaller ways of supporting, to innovative ideas, and contributions like this, it’s heartening to see this response and to feel the community’s support.”

In the hospital setting, PAPRs are a specialized PPE resource for frontline staff. At NHH, the ESCO PAPRs are being prepared for use by the critical care team – in particular, physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists – working in areas of the hospital where patients confirmed or presumed to have COVID-19 might require aerosolized procedures, such as intubations.

“I feel very fortunate to live and work in this community,” shares Angie Gammage, Respiratory Therapist at NHH. “I continue to feel safe at work and I think a big part of that is knowing so many are supporting us.”

The use of PAPRs was already being discussed amongst the management team at NHH, with an investigation into the costs and time associated to acquire these underway before this generous offer was made by Weir ESCO. The hospital’s initial investigation estimated approximately a six week wait for any new PAPRs to be acquired. Given the unpredictability and speed at which things are developing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the fact that this process could be expedited to where 20 PAPRs could be offered, seen and assessed by a team from the hospital, picked up, and onsite at NHH in less than one week made a world of difference.

To ensure staff are trained in proper donning, doffing, and utilization of these PAPRs, an initial video training call was coordinated by NHH with the manufacturer last week, and training continues to take place with critical staff from each of the main areas where PAPRs will be utilized should circumstances warrant.

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