Local collaboration leads to innovation on refurbishing and improving fit of stored N95 masks needed for COVID-19 response

GREENVILLE, SC – Prisma Health, the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) and local manufacturers are working together to bolster supplies for the COVID-19 response. Coordinating through the SCHA, Prisma Health has been able to replace elastic straps on N95 masks previously held in long-term storage. These masks were one of the back-up options to Prisma Health’s main personal protective equipment (PPE) supply.

Prisma Health’s emergency management and preparedness program includes maintaining an inventory surplus of critical supplies. The healthcare system’s inventory includes long-term overstocks of the masks in climate-controlled storage locations as an emergency back-up for an epidemic or pandemic event.

While the filter material on the stored “duckbill” style N95 masks remains pristine, the elastic bands that secure the facemasks to the wearer had become brittle. Prisma Health is taking the proactive step to prevent breakage by replacing the straps now, before the inventory is needed.

SCHA, which has offered assistance to healthcare systems across the state, helped identify manufacturers to assist with the project. SCHA helped negotiate an economical price with Phenix Engineered Textiles in Landrum, SC, to produce the straps and with a Sleep Number manufacturing plant to attach the new straps. The collaboration will result in the refurbishment of all of the duckbill-style N95 masks by early April.

In return for the companies’ excellent per unit strap cost, Prisma Health is donating 10% of the refurbished masks to the Midlands Health Care Coalition for its use and distribution to healthcare organizations.

Christopher Powell, director of Engineering Services for Prisma Health–Midlands, said, “Prisma Health is extremely grateful for businesses in the community responding to our needs with innovation and generosity. Our team members are working hard to care for patients during this public health crisis. We believe that collaboration is the key to getting through the COVID-19 crisis and saving lives.”

John Williams, director of Disaster Preparedness for SCHA said, “This is an amazing story of South Carolina organizations coming together for a South Carolina solution. We are grateful for these manufacturers who stepped up for the state’s hospitals and health systems in our time of need.”

For more information about COVID-19 and Prisma Health’s continued response, visit PrismaHealth.org/Coronavirus.

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