Dr. J.P. Lawrence, chair of the AHN Anesthesiology Institute, demonstrates the functionality of the protective barrier enclosure. Image courtesy of AHN/PR Newswire.

The protective shields are the result of a collaboration between AHN and Magee Plastics, aided by funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

PITTSBURGH—June 24, 2020—Allegheny Health Network (AHN)  reported it has partnered with  manufacturer Magee Plastics Company to design and equip caregiver teams with protective barrier enclosures that reduce clinical exposure to coughed droplets and aerosols produced during medical procedures on patients. The collaboration between the two organizations is supported by a $150,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, AHN said in a release.

The collaboration represents another step in AHN’s efforts to ensure that frontline hospital caregivers have the protection they need to help prevent exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and other infectious diseases. Earlier this month, AHN announced it partnered with MSA Safety to provide P100 protective masks—industrial grade respirators—to clinical staff on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The protective barrier enclosure is produced by Magee Plastics and consists of a transparent plastic cube designed to cover a patient’s head while they are in a hospital bed. Used as a physical barrier, the cube incorporates one or more ports through which the health care provider’s hands are passed to perform medical procedures related to airway management. These procedures include intubation, extubation, and suctioning of airways, as well as any aerosol-generating procedures, such as nebulizer treatments and manipulation of oxygen masks.

“As part of our pandemic response efforts at AHN, we continue to explore innovative ways to enhance the safety of our practitioners who are caring for patients with COVID-19,” said J.P. Lawrence, M.D., and chair, AHN Anesthesiology Institute. “In addition to the personal protective equipment worn by our clinicians, this new device has the potential to further minimize exposure to pathogenic airborne particles and provide an additional layer of protection. We are excited to partner with the team at Magee Plastics on the design of the unit, and are extremely grateful to the Richard King Mellon Foundation for its support in helping bring this project to fruition.”

Magee Plastics, a prominent provider of engineered products for the airline, rail, medical, and other industries, will produce a total of 350 protective barrier enclosures. Two hundred of them will be distributed to AHN facilities, and 150 to other regional health care facilities over the next several weeks, according to the release.

Protective barrier enclosures have been approved by the FDA for emergency use following the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services’ declaration in early March that the shortage of medical equipment due to the COVID-19 pandemic warranted authorization for emergency use of alternative medical devices and products.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered daily operations at Magee Plastics. Magee president Charles Story said the company’s commitment to the community and its employees made the decision to repurpose its operations to meet a critical need of health care providers an easy one.

“Our region’s health care workers have answered the call of this pandemic without hesitation and in heroic fashion. We are delighted to be able to support them through this unique collaboration, which has also enabled us to keep many of our employees working during this unprecedented time,” Story said.

“The Foundation supported this project because it advances two of our key priorities in this pandemic – protecting our frontline healthcare workers, and protecting jobs,” said Sam Reiman, director, Richard King Mellon Foundation.

Allegheny Health Network (AHN.org), a Highmark Health company, is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater Western Pennsylvania region. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of advanced medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, cardiovascular disease, cancer care, orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women’s health, diabetes, and more.

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