SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Healthcare workers across the nation are struggling to get their hands on personal protective equipment. Most PPE coming from federal, state and local agencies are going directly to front line workers in hospitals other primary care facilities, leaving nurses like Linda Gray without protection.
Gray works at Lung Associates of Sarasota, which is directly across the street from Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
“We are a very big practice and a very busy practice and being that COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, we are busy,” said Gray.
The nurse tells 8 On Your Side amid the COVID-19 pandemic, her employer had trouble getting masks for the staff of nearly 45 people.
“We couldn’t find them. We couldn’t get them. We had one box at one point left for the entire staff and it got a little nerve-racking,” said Gray.
Fortunately, the founder of Suncoast Science Center / Faulhaber Fab Lab, Ping Faulhaber, recognized the need for PPE for non-primary healthcare workers such as Gray.
The science center is utilizing technology such as laser cutters and 3-D printers to make face masks and face shields for second line healthcare workers. “We’ve been providing them to healthcare workers in nursing homes, assisted living and doctors’ offices,” said Faulhaber.
Lung Associates of Sarasota received masks from the Fab Lab last week.
“It was very nice to have them think of us. We are most grateful and most appreciative,” said Gray.
There are currently more than 200 volunteers who have joined in on the project including students from across Sarasota County. Some are working at the Fab Lab while others are working from home.
“It is good to know that what we are doing here is directly helping others,” said Pine View senior Claire Wang.
Faulhaber tells 8 On Your Side the Suncoast Science Center has received more than 5,000 requests for PPE, mainly from non primary facilities.
“They are really in desperate need,” said Faulhaber.
So far, volunteers have managed to make hundreds of face masks/shields and have enough materials to make thousands more. As requests continue to pour in, material costs will become a challenge.
“It can be quite expensive, plastics and forms and everything,” said the Fab Lab founder.
The Science Center is accepting donations to help with the cost of materials. Faulhaber tells 8 On Your Side they’re also looking for volunteers and innovators. If you have any ideas for a face mask or other protective gear, the Faulhaber Fab Lab wants to hear from you.
The community can also get involved by donating supplies to the science center. Volunteers are in need of 100 percent cotton fabric and 1/8-1/2″ elastic.
For more details on the project, click here.
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