N95 respirators being decontaminated in MaineHealth’s UV-C facility built in Portland, ME.
In late March 2020, as the novel COVID-19 virus began to take hold, Maine’s personal protective equipment (PPE) reserves were dwindling fast. MaineHealth, Maine’s largest healthcare system serving more than one million patients across Maine and Carroll County, NH, needed to build its pandemic supply of N95 respirators to ensure the safety of care team members and preserve its ability to care for patients amidst rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases.
CALLING ON INNOVATION
The MaineHealth COVID-19 response team and leaders turned to the MaineHealth Innovation division, which had only been operating for one week at the time, to address some of these needs. Looking to healthcare colleagues across the country, such as the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Florida’s Lee Health, MaineHealth Innovation proposed a UV-C light decontamination process to safely allow for the reuse of N95 respirators. Within six weeks, a MaineHealth UV-C facility was built in Portland, Maine, and thousands of N95s from MaineHealth locations were identified, tagged, collected, decontaminated and stored, ready to be deployed to care team members in the event of a declared PPE shortage. While MaineHealth has yet to deploy decontaminated N95s to its workforce, MaineHealth processed N95s for Maine emergency services teams as they continued to serve our communities on the front lines. More than 40 interdisciplinary MaineHealth care team members from Maine Medical Center Safety and Emergency Management, Medical Affairs, MaineHealth Supply Chain, Legal Affairs, and Process Improvement, among many others, contributed to this project, which represented MaineHealth’s first system-wide innovation pathway.
SHAPING INNOVATION AT MAINEHEALTH
As the N95 initiative progressed, MaineHealth quickly learned the mechanisms needed to embrace its value of innovation to the fullest: senior leadership support, collaboration across the system and with community partners, and the adoption of low-technology solutions that have a high impact on patients and communities. With these themes in mind, the MaineHealth Innovation division was primed to continue the new wave of innovation momentum that the COVID-19 pandemic set in motion. While the pandemic continues into 2022, there is a sense of hope amidst the uncertainty. MaineHealth care team members have shown that they will continue working together to make MaineHealth communities the healthiest in the nation during this pandemic and long after it ends.