GMIT Supporting Frontline Heroes During Covid-19 Crisis

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While the campus doors may be closed, the work goes on.  Over the last eleven short weeks, GMIT staff have been challenged in exceptional ways.  Whilst having to adapt to new ways of teaching and assessing online, they have also been engaged in the background supporting the fight against COVID-19.  Several initiatives undertaken at GMIT to support frontline heroes have included the opening of a contact tracing centre, pioneering the development of open source ventilators, in addition to the production of face coverings.

GMIT Supporting Frontline Heroes

One particular project was the production of face shields – “GMIT Project Visor” – led Dr Brian de Souza and Eddie Dunbar of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. Faced with unprecedented and immediate demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the project initially targeted the production of PPE for primary care settings before being subsequently expanded to meet the requirements of Galway University Hospitals (GUH). Working both from the Dublin Road campus and from homes all around Galway City and County, the two lecturers, together with GMIT volunteers and their families, assembled over ten thousand face shields.

“We initiated a call for staff within GMIT to volunteer for the project in mid-April and were astounded by the response  We were inundated with offers to help”, says Gerard Mac Michael, Head of School of Engineering, GMIT. “The goodwill and sense of unity was humbling”.

“Within days, we had over one hundred and seventy volunteers, and received several incredible offers of support from local business, such as Collins’ Plastics in Ballina who volunteered their 1,900 sq ft plastics production facility to assist the project, and Standard Printers, Galway, who donated their expertise, materials and services free of charge”.

“A major factor in the success of the project was Brian’s resolve”, added Mr MacMichael. “He solicited the assistance of engineering colleagues with key expertise in manufacturing and materials to complement his own design and computational modelling skills. He also initiated discussions directly with medical school clinicians in primary and tertiary care settings, and hospital procurement staff, to evaluate an initial prototype. The clinical feedback and Brian’s computational model informed the final visor specification”.

A Reduction in Cases

As the number of cases of COVID-19 has reduced, the project is now coming to completion.  The last batch of GMIT visors was delivered to GUH staff this week.

Commenting on the project, Ms Chris Kane, General Manager, GUH, says; The support of our community has been incredible over the past few months. In a very short amount of time we’ve had to completely change the way we deliver healthcare and every day we need a large volume of PPE to protect our patients and our staff.  We are very grateful to the staff and volunteers form GMIT who produced face shields for our hospitals. At a time of great need and supply challenges, it made a huge difference.”

 In addition to GUH, GMIT face shields have been supplied to the Association of Optometrists, Ireland, assisting with the safe reopening of opticians across the country.  Face shields have also been supplied to local charities such as Ability West, nursing homes, pharmacies and primary care centres.

President of GMIT, Dr Orla Flynn, says, “This project brought to the fore a sense of the character of our institution and the people within it: empathy for and with the communities around us, and the drive to act beyond any narrow definition of duty. We also place enormous value on the external relationships developed as part of this engagement.”

Positive Response

Dr Brian de Souza, lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, says; “When we look back at COVID-19 in years to come, we’ll no doubt recall the shared feeling of fear and uncertainty concomitant with the arrival of COVID-19 on our shores.  Yet, what also should be remembered is the indomitable spirit and resilience of our community, our commitment to the common challenge”.

“I would like to thank all the amazing volunteers who participated in this project from across all departments in GMIT, contributing their skills, talents and time to help support our frontline services”.

“The true heroes in this emergency were, and continue to be, the many nurses and doctors and other allied healthcare workers who have selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to treat those with COVID-19.  In particular, a special mention must to go our student nurses from our campus in Castlebar.  They deserve our enduring respect and gratitude.” adds Dr De Souza.


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