VIU Donates Critical Health Supplies During Covid-19 Crisis

VIU Donates Critical Health Supplies During COVID-19 Crisis

Chemistry Technicians Shelley Gellein and Peter Diamente in the Health Canada Licenced Manufacturing Laboratory for VIU Topical Hand Sanitizer 75% (v/v) Isopropanol (Liquid).

May 25, 2020 - 2:00pm

University community puts expertise and resources to work to benefit frontline workers. ­­

As COVID-19 quickly spread around the world and critical health supplies became scarce, Vancouver Island University (VIU) employees have found ways to help protect frontline responders and their colleagues on campus providing essential services. 

“Universities have enormous intellectual capacity and the physical resources, space and laboratories available to support our communities and society,” says Dr. Erik Krogh, Co-chair of VIU’s Chemistry department. “It’s encouraging to see the degree to which people are collaborating and stepping up to do a variety of things to help out during this crisis.”   

After hearing about local shortages, Chemistry technicians Shelley Gellein and Peter Diamente started making hand sanitizer that follows the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended formula and distributing supplies to essential services personnel at the Nanaimo campus.  

VIU Donates Critical Health Supplies During COVID-19 Crisis

Krogh says Health Canada regulations stipulated that they must have a license to distribute outside of the VIU community, so they applied and were granted one. One of VIU’s new state-of-the-art labs in the Dr. Ralph Nilson Centre for Health and Science has officially been designated as a manufacturing site for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency response to make, bottle and distribute the Isopropanol-based topical hand sanitizer in bulk quantities.  

“The licence allows us to prepare and donate the sanitizer for use outside of the VIU community,” adds Krogh. “We are currently preparing 120 litres, which will be distributed to Island Health and other community health partners, such as long-term care facilities.” 

VIU Donates Critical Health Supplies During COVID-19 Crisis

The response to community needs for supplies to prevent the spread of the virus spanned several faculties and campuses. Members of VIU’s Engineering Department, including Professor Brian Dick and technicians David Moss and Dennis Frost, have fabricated nearly 250 face mask frames using 3D printers to help protect frontline health-care workers in BC. The department provided 75 to the Nanaimo Division of Family Practice; 60 to Arrowsmith Lodge, a VIU partner through the Faculty of Health and Human Services; and 40 to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital for evaluation. The department is working with VMAC Global Technology Inc., which sourced the frame design, and plans to distribute more frames over the coming days. 

VIU’s faculties of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities and Science and Technology also donated almost 800 transparency sheets ‒ the disposable mask part of the face shields ‒ to go with the frames. 

Ken Plumbly, a Technician with the Information Technology department at the Cowichan campus, has his personal 3D printer running for more than half the day printing headbands for face shields for Project Draw Breath. The group operating out of the Cowichan Valley sprang into action making a variety of projects to help hospitals and medical facilities to get through the crisis and called upon others with printers to get involved.  

VIU Donates Critical Health Supplies During COVID-19 Crisis

“I wanted to help, the headbands don’t cost very much to make and it’s an easy thing to print so I got involved,” explains Plumbly. “I set up my old 3D printer to make two headbands at a time, which takes about four hours. I have donated a dozen so far, and they said they’ll take as many as I can give them so I will keep printing them.” 

Plumbly says the Project Draw Breath team assembled the face shields which were added to a care package sent to Sointuila on Malcolm Island, where a state of emergency had been declared due to a COVID-19 outbreak. 

“There is a lot of anxiety caused by the pandemic with many people staying at work and some not being able to work,” says Krogh. “It made me realize just how much better it feels to be making a difference by contributing our expertise and our resources to help our community.”



Annette Lucas, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

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Tags: Chemistry | community | Engineering | In the Community

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