Star Story 2 - Necessity: the mother of invention

Our Star Stories celebrate the many ways our teams around the country have risen to the challenges of 2020.

Once the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Southern Cross Healthcare came up against considerable challenges purchasing clinically suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

PPE is a key part of infection control within Southern Cross hospitals whether it be in theatre, on the ward or even in reception. As face shields are needed for all surgical procedures they became vital to ensure surgeries were able to be carried out under Levels 3 and 4.

From March, worldwide demand for PPE skyrocketed. Manufacturers started saturating the market with consumer masks and hand sanitiser – much of which was not suitable for a hospital setting and would not meet the high standards of our hospitals.

As global demand increased, our procurement team’s resourcefulness ensured we had a continuous supply of clinically suitable, financially viable and sustainable product.

As traditional supply chains were depleted Phil Abel (Assistant Supply Chain and Procurement Manager) reached out to Paul Roberts at Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI), University of Auckland. As a significant contributor to Med-Tech research, ABI seemed the ideal collaborator for a new face shield.

Within days of Phil’s call, Paul and his team had produced a face shield prototype that was tailored to our design requirements; in parallel also supporting the needs of the DHBs.  ABI were also able to incorporate specific sustainable and functional requirements into the face shield so it was safer and could be sterilised for reuse.

As a result of the order from Southern Cross Healthcare, ABI was able to engage a food grade injection mould, introduced by Weta Workshop, to scale up production. As Paul Roberts, of ABI says “It was inspiring to see everyone come together and work as a team.”

Although necessity was the mother of invention, the initiative also resulted in other benefits. Not only does the face shield support Southern Cross Healthcare’s sustainability strategy, it also reduced costs; and its New Zealand production will help ensure availability any time international supply and transport channels are disrupted.