While colleges may be closed, their highly skilled staff have kept at work in the Covid-19 crisis, with GMIT producing over 10,000 face shields for healthcare workers.
Led by Dr Brian de Souza and Eddie Dunbar of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, ‘GMIT Project Visor’ got underway in April, making face shields in response to an unprecedented demand for PPE.
Working both from the Dublin Road campus and from homes all around Galway City and County, hundreds of people volunteered time to help assemble face shields; firstly for primary care facilities, but later expanding to Galway University Hospitals.
“We initiated a call for staff within GMIT to volunteer for the project in mid-April and were astounded by the response,” says Gerard Mac Michael, Head of School of Engineering
“We were inundated with offers to help. The goodwill and sense of unity was humbling”.
Within days over 170 people had volunteered for the project, and local businesses chipped in more than their fair share of support as well.
Collins’ Plastics in Ballina volunteered their 1,900 sq ft plastics production facility to assist the project, and Standard Printers, Galway donated their expertise, materials and services free of charge.
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 Galway University Hospitals, 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.
Other initiatives have included the opening of a contact tracing centre, and pioneering the development of open source ventilators.
Dr Brian de Souza said that when we look back on these time, we will remember the “shared feeling of fear and uncertainty” caused by the virus.
“Yet, what also should be remembered is the indomitable spirit and resilience of our community, our commitment to the common challenge”.