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VA Central California Health Care System
Community Donation, 3D-printed Face Shields
By Will McCullough, Public Affairs Officer
Wednesday, April 22, 2020COVID-19 is seemingly holding the world and the U.S. economy hostage, making it difficult to acquire just about anything these days.
A mask. A pair of latex gloves. A face shield. All of these things are collectively known as personal protective equipment (PPE), a necessity for healthcare workers.
With border closures spanning multiple countries, stock houses barren, and store shelves empty, manufacturers are scrambling to gather supplies to meet the increasingly desperate demand for PPE.
Despite all the chaos, the Veteran-centric community of the Central Valley heeded the call to help meet the need for VA Central California Health Care System (VACCHCS).
Commander James Bennett, American Legion - Post 23, Sanger, had the idea to partner with a local high school, after seeing a story in the news about Career Technical Education Charter (CTEC) School donating masks to a hospital in the area.
“CTEC Director John Delano is a friend, so I reached out, appealing on behalf of the VA hospital,” said Bennett. “All I had to say was ‘Veterans,’ and John was all in!”
With Delano on-board, it was simply a matter of bringing all the pieces together. Bennett sought the aid of VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) Program Manager Mary Golden to see how best to support the hospital.
Despite her extreme excitement, Golden knew any materials used in the hospital, especially near Veterans, had to meet strict safety and sanitation guidelines. She contacted Chief Safety Officer David Smith.
“We need PPE to keep the staff and the Veterans safe,” said Smith. “So, when our VAVS Program Manager said a local high school was willing to 3D-print PPE for us, we had to make sure they had the correct, approved template that would be usable in a hospital setting.”
Gina Raines, from the Office of Innovation provided the proper template, approved for 3D printing, by the Veterans Health Administration.
“The hospital actually considered purchasing 3D printers,” Smith said. “But even if we could get them, there is the problem of finding and acquiring the right media, suitable for hospital use.“
With the help of the Safety department, VAVS, The American Legion and CTEC Charter School, all of the pieces had been gathered, and all that was left to do was put together the proverbial puzzle.
“When JD (Bennett) came to me with the idea, I was all for it,” said Delano. “American Legion – Post 23 assisted with the funding for the materials, and our supplier was able to deliver. And the staff were all for it! It was a perfect match and a great way for our new high school to support our community.”
It took less than a week for 500 approved masks with face shields to be 3D were delivered to the VA hospital, in Fresno, California. The masks came in several vibrant colors.
Red. Blue. Black. Yellow. Even white.
The masks were made from polylactic acid, or PLA. It is the raw primary natural material used in 3D printing which is a form of polyester.
Medical Center Director Charles Benninger received the masks and face shields, along with VAVS Program Manager Mary Golden. Bennett personally made the delivery, on Wednesday, April 15, 2020.
“I can’t say enough about this community. Their love and appreciation for Veterans can really be seen everywhere you look,” said Benninger. “We’re grateful for all of our community partners. They see a need. They fill it. It’s that simple. But this, this is really exceptional, especially at a time when there are extreme shortages across the nation.”
The donation was a great act of kindness, to be certain. It also shows what it really means to be a community.
And that’s everyone coming together for the greater good.