Stakeholder engagement in the development and supply of face visors to healthcare settings by staff of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT)

Brian de Souza
Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

Gerard MacMichael
Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

Orla Flynn
Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

On March 11th, the first COVID-19 death in Ireland was announced. The rapid worldwide spread of the pandemic led to a demand surge for personal protective equipment (PPE), overwhelming global production capacity. Following the closure of GMIT on March 13th, a GMIT engineering lecturer conceived what was to become GMIT Project Visor - the design, manufacture and supply by GMIT staff of a simple, comfortable and effective face shield for healthcare staff.

A major factor in the success of the project was the resolve of its champion, who solicited the assistance of other GMIT staff with key expertise in manufacturing and materials to complement his own design and computational modelling skills. The lecturer secured the support of his supervisor and senior management staff, who facilitated access during the lockdown to the Institute’s resources such as workshops, laboratories and funding.

The champion initiated discussions directly with medical school clinicians in primary and tertiary care settings, and hospital procurement staff, to evaluate an initial prototype. The clinical imprimatur and the champion’s computational model informed the final visor specification. The face visor design afforded higher production rates than those possible for visors using 3D-printed components.

External communications about the project were shaped as a story of solidarity and relevance of the Institute and its staff for the people of the region, using national and regional press, radio and social media. The call for Project Visor volunteers, elicited over 25% of GMIT staff to work on the project, many of them volunteers already working in the GMIT contact tracing centre established in partnership with the Health Services Executive.

The visor team developed the supply chain for the visor materials and packaging by engaging suppliers directly. A local SME, inspired by the Project Visor media coverage, offered exclusive use of its 1,900 m2 plastics manufacturing facility for rapid machining on a pro bono basis. The team configured the major hospital order-fulfilment plan by small-batching materials for delivery to GMIT staff volunteers to assemble and package. Volunteer address codes were used to optimise delivery and collection across the region.

The impact of the project was twofold: The inclusion and participation of large numbers of GMIT staff enhanced the sense of pride of many staff in GMIT. Most importantly, the face visors supplied the complete requirements of a major neighbouring hospital in all settings including intensive care, helping the safeguarding of medical personnel and patients. (398)

* staff of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology