A group of Riverside volunteers have been working diligently at Riverside Regional Medical Center to repair 54,000 N95 masks that were donated to the health system from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kimberly-Clark™ N95 Respirator and Surgical Masks repair work was needed because the elastic straps required replacing, said Carolyn Smith, Riverside’s Director of Volunteer Services. The masks were not defective in any way, and Riverside employed quality control to ensure each mask still provided the adequate level of filtering capability.
“The donation of these masks was not just here in Virginia,” Smith said. “You can read stories about them being repaired all over the country and we’re thrilled we can use our volunteer corps, and some of our team members, to do this work.”
The work of repairing the masks resembles a well-orchestrated assembly line that involved planning and great innovation.
For one, Smith said, because of a shortage of elastic nationwide, Riverside had to think creatively about how to replace the straps.
“That’s why we turned to tourniquets and zip ties,” Smith said. “It is definitely a production. Our volunteers pull the old elastic out, punch holes in the corner of the masks, cut the tourniquet material into two pieces, thread them through the mask and then use zip ties to secure it all before repackaging.”
The volunteers are so dedicated to this effort, Smith said, that a lot of them are taking the zip ties home with them to pre-loop each piece to make the assembly line go faster.
Currently, Smith said, Riverside is faring well with its levels of personal protective equipment for team members across the health system and these repaired masks have not needed to be used.
“But Riverside is committed to helping other partners in the community who do need this personal protective equipment and we’ve already donated several boxes of these repaired masks to a non-Riverside facility who needed them,” Smith said. “As a community we are all in this together and where we can we are trying to donate and pay forward the kindness and support that has come our way.”
Published: May 6, 2020