A COMPANY director who is now helping make shields to protect medics from Covid-19 has said he wanted to help the NHS in its “hour of need”.
Seating Matters in Limavady usually makes seats for ill and disabled people, including intensive care patients.
Now staff have produced a design for an aerosol box which can be placed over the head of a Covid patient while they are being treated by anaesthetists.
They have also created a flat-pack bed which has been dispatched to temporary hospitals in Great Britain for recovering patients and hospital staff.
Seating Matters, which has around 50 staff, has worked with other Northern Ireland companies Plastic Promotions, McAuley Engineering and Hutchinson Engineering to make the shields.
The design was created on a Monday, the product made the following day and then tested at three hospitals on the Wednesday.
They’re designed to protect anaesthetists as they intubate and extubate patients before and after treatment on a ventilator.
But that process can lead to an aerosol affect of coronavirus droplets being spread widely, putting anaesthetists at great risk of contracting the virus.
Director Martin Tierney said the project began after a specialist in Dublin had sent him a testimonial from a Taiwanese doctor, who had cut in half an incubator for a baby to use as a shield on a Covid patient.
Staff then developed a design - which they have now shared with other manufacturers all over the world.
The Seating Matters factory in Limavady has now produced 100 shields which have been sent around the UK and Ireland.
“They are now even starting to make them in Perth in Australia. The need for it is incredible.
“I can’t reiterate enough - we are getting publicity from this but we shouldn’t be. The people who should be getting publicity are the nurses, the therapists, the radiotherapists, the hospital kitchen - everyone who’s getting themselves into work in hospitals, and putting themselves at risk to take care of us.”
He said the company made its design available on the internet. “It’s now being built in Germany, Spain, England, Canada, America and Portugal. There’s too much protectionism out there so we thought if we design something, get it out there. If it can be made in Germany and shipped to German hospitals straight away, that’s great.”
Seating Matters is also working around the clock on its main business of making seats for patients, and fulfilling orders even more rapidly than usual. “Our chairs are used during rehab of patients as getting someone sitting is the first step towards getting them walking and getting them discharged.
“One hospital ordered 50 chairs for intensive and critical care last Tuesday and wanted them delivered on Sunday, so that’s exactly what we did.”
And it’s also now making beds for use in temporary hospitals after coming up with a new design, again working with Hutchinson Engineering and McAuley Engineering. “There are excellent beds from bed companies but just not enough. What we’ve made is a simple medical bed in a flat-pack, which can free up the more expensive beds for the patients who need them the most.
“These have been shipped out for rapid deployment done at cost.
“We’re all busy firms so we didn’t do any of this for want of work but because this is the hour of need for the healthcare system and we’re proud to be able to help.”
Jonathan McAuley, managing director of McAuley Engineering, said: “As we see our healthcare workers battle against the Covid-19 virus, it’s important that companies like ourselves do whatever we can to provide the back up support they need.”