A grey market has emerged in the medical community as doctors and nurses search for personal protective equipment. It’s leading to some out-of-the-box ideas.
A Survey Monkey poll NBC 6 conducted showed that more than half of South Florida doctors and nurses told us they did not have enough personal protective equipment in hospitals, many times re-using the same mask day by day.
The state government and private mask makers, most notably 3M, continue to go back and forth over the price and distribution of N-95 masks.
Alexander Hussain is the owner of 3DChimera, a 3D printing studio in southwest Miami-Dade. After working with his brother to 3D print face shields for a Tampa Area hospital, several hundred people have come asking for replicas. For each $20 shield bought, he donates another one to the doctor’s teams.
He tells NBC 6 he has been inundated with requests.
This week, he’s working with a nearby hand surgeon, Dr. Roberto Miki, to make medical face shields out of scuba masks and 3D printed adapters and filters to keep coronavirus particulars while medical professionals are working. It’s a practice Italian doctors used when fighting a rush of COVID-19 patients two weeks ago.
“There are a lot of healthcare providers who have families at home that are immunocompromised or have problems. And you can’t bring it home. If you’re on the front lines, this is a major problem,” Miki said.
Miki tried ordering 50 N-95 masks from McKesson but it would take a month and a half for them to arrive. Making an at-home safety mask out of scuba gear was faster. He thought if thousands of Floridians have one thing laying around the garage unused right now, they have scuba masks.
For Miki it started with a Youtube video, posting instructions on how to make a medical shield from a scuba mask for individual doctors. A mutual connection saw the video and recommended reaching out to 3DChimera.
Miki’s idea is now joining Hussain’s small but speedy production line.
“We hear that hospitals have everything they need. They absolutely do not have everything they need. We are getting individual calls from individual doctors and nurses all day long,” Hussain said.
Tuesday, an ICU doctor saw the Youtube video and came in for the scuba mask option while NBC 6 interviewed Hussain.
The 3D printed adapter and filter cost around ten dollars. The entire set with a scuba mask included is around $50 or $60. But it’s reusable, a key factor that now the CDC recommends with traditional N-95 masks.
The Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved this product to be a respirator, a medical mask. But they have allowed it to be a face shield after research at Stanford University.
This week, Miki and Hussain started a GoFundMe page to collect unused scuba masks, print adapters and filters, and get them to nurses and doctors. To get them, medical professionals have donate back to the cause.
“Every device that we make could be helping keeping a doctor healthy and that helps save a life. So each device in my mind is saving a life,” Hussain said.