Clark business making plastic intubation boxes
Endotracheal intubation saves lives, including those of COVID-19 patients on ventilators. But it also risks the lives of physicians and other health care workers who are exposed to the potentially deadly virus.
That’s why a Winchester company, Precision Mechanical Inc., has retooled to make plastic intubation boxes to cover the heads and necks of patients who are being intubated.
PMI is a custom fabrication and construction company that specializes in food, beverage and pharmaceutical industry products.
A few weeks ago, employees of the company started hearing from people in the medical profession about the need for something to shield them from exposure to the coronavirus, and the company was quick to respond.
“We have several of our PMI family members,” relatives of company employees, who work in health care, who asked, “Can you make it?” said PMI Chief Operating Officer Wes Harris. “We just started getting all of these phone calls. It got serious pretty quick.”
Some doctors who contacted PMI showed examples of similar devices made by other companies.
“We took the doctors’ feedback and made it better, and then we built these ourselves,” Harris said.
Harris said the company has sold or donated six of them and had about 10 more ready to go out Monday.
“I expect we’ll get rid of four more today,” he said.
The first of the boxes were donated to Dr. Bruce Kostelnik at Clark Regional Medical Center, who received one for the emergency department, and Dr. Andrew Pacitti of Baptist Health in Lexington, who got three.
Kostelnik and Pacitti were given the first of the boxes “because they provided all the feedback on the prototype” and helped with the design, Harris said.
“It will keep myself, the respiratory therapist and the nurse less exposed during the intubation,” Kostelnik told the Sun Monday.
Dr. Anjum Bux, an anesthesiologist in Danville, also bought two of the boxes last week, and hospitals in Harrison and Bourbon counties have reached out to PMI about buying some.
In a Facebook post, Kostelnik commended the company: “Kyle Raney worked with us to make an exceptional product that will help us during intubations,” he wrote, referencing a member of the PMI team. “We have already put this product to good use!”
The design is a clear acrylic box with circular holes in the sides to allow doctors to place their hands inside, where their tools are waiting for them. There is also a vacuum port on the top to pull negative pressure through the box with a suction tube while it’s being used. The box can also be covered with plastic shrink wrap for a tighter seal.
The boxes are a sanitary design that can be easily cleaned and disinfected.
In a YouTube video he made, Harris shows the boxes and explains how they work.
“During the intubation process, the medical staff experiences an exponential increase in exposure to this virus,” Harris said.
Harris said the PMI team members who are most responsible for “making this happen” are Jerry Muir, engineering manager, and Aaron Martin, custom fabrication shop foreman, and their staff.
The COO said the product helps solve two problems. One is that medical employees desperately needed the boxes during the current health care crisis. The other is that PMI needed a new product it could sell because of delays in other contracts, which he referred to as the company’s economic crisis.
“If we can do things like this, it will help protect the front line workers that we’re praying for, and will also keep our families fed and at work, so that’s why we’re doing it,” Harris said.
PMI employs about 75 people and sells its products throughout the U.S.
Harris said everyone who works for the company, even those not in the custom fabrication division, will have the ability to participate in manufacture of the intubation boxes.
Harris said the next product PMI plans to produce that will protect medical workers is face shields. He said the company would finalize prototypes Monday for those and have about 600 of them ready to ship out by the end of the week.
The shields also will be made at the Winchester facility, he said.
Precision Mechanical Inc., located in Winchester Industrial Park, has been in operation for 20 years and has grown during that time. It is owned by Harris, John Huff and Chris Estes, tenured senior managers of the company who acquired the business in July 2019.