Exacting a solution to address persistent healthcare PPE shortage

-Athlone IT professor conducting pertinent research to solve problematic issue

The perennial issue pertaining to the persistent personal protective equipment (PPE ) shortage for front line health workers during the present COVID-19 pandemic has been the prime source of much discussion.

Affording much focus to this pertinent issue, Professor Neil J. Rowan, Director of the Bioscience Research Institute at Athlone Institute of Technology, is presently researching ecological friendly means to decontaminate PPE and enable reuse should relevant stocks become limited in supply amid fears of a second wave of the virus.

Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser this week, the Coosan resident, noted the intricate research processed to date and his aspirations for formal implementation of his findings.

"PPE is extremely heat sensitive and solely designed for single use and in its present format present challenges for reprocessing in healthcare. If a PPE shortage should arise, this would give cause for an immensely problematic situation for our frontline healthcare workers who are working diligently to fight the virus.

"There is a dearth of critical information available with regard to COVID-19. There is no best practice presently available. However, it is a complex virus designed to be pathogenic but susceptible to disinfectants, so therein is the opportunity to administer sustainable solutions to decontaminate and enable PPE reuse," Professor Rowan asserted.

Working in tandem with John Laffey, Professor of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at NUI Galway, Professor Rowan has devised a strategic approach to the numerous PPE variants presently in use by frontline healthcare personnel. Upon intense research, Professor Rowan opted for the use of vaporised hydrogen peroxide as it appeared most "appropriate and effective" with regard to the reprocessing and reuse of PPE.

"It is a low temperature technological solution which allows for swift decontamination and reuse of PPE within a safe and ecological friendly environment. Assessing global trends, the use of vaporised hydrogen peroxide has been FDA-authorised in the US for decontaminating PPE and affording thought to implementing a relevant contingency plan for hospitals operating in the west of Ireland a machine of such ilk has been ordered for University Hospital Galway (UHG )." Professor Rowan remarked.

An additional decontaminate, sodium hypochlorite, is also proving PPE effective during the research process.

"It is a mere case of matching the PPE material to the compatible decontaminant," Professor Rowan stated.

A limiting factor with regard to the progressive research presently undertaken is the PPE certification process in situ.

"Presently, frontline healthcare workers are utilising 1,000,000 units of PPE daily. Maintaining a continuous supply of PPE in the present pandemic circumstances remains vital, with the Health and Safety Authority and HSE due to liaise and decide upon the implementation of our research findings," Professor Rowan continued.

PPE is not designed for reuse purposes and such an analogy is detailed in a recent paper entitled 'Challenges and solutions for addressing critical shortage of supply chain for PPE arising from COVID-19 pandemic', published by both researchers.

"It is prudent to have an effective plan deployed should a second wave of COVID-19 arise in the future. A pandemic exacts much strain and stress within society with particular focus on frontline healthcare personnel who have an urgent necessity for a consistent supply of PPE materials in such circumstances.

"Arriving at an ecological friendly solution to reprocess and reuse such PPE material will be most advantageous," Professor Rowan noted.

As Professor Rowan awaits formal certification of his research findings, he is mindful and complimentary of colleagues who have been to the fore when disseminating relevant information in his quest to ascertain PPE sustainability.

"The intense generosity of colleagues is clearly visible in such pandemic circumstances. The in-pouring of shared knowledge has been critical as we progressed with our research with colleagues willing to provide essential thoughts and knowledge all afforded towards the betterment of society," Professor Rowan concluded.


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