COVID-19: New protective gown testing facility

Posted 22 Jun 2020

Your generous donations to support Flinders Heroes has established Australia’s first dedicated facility to scientifically test protective gowns worn by healthcare workers. Thank you!

The new addition is a huge step towards making more locally made personal protective equipment (PPE) available to keep healthcare workers and the community safe from COVID-19 and other infections.

Flinders University’s Medical Device Research Institute (MDRI), based at Tonsley, will test fabric samples from gown manufacturers for resistance to bacteria, viruses and fluids.

Professor Karen Reynolds said the serious disruption of PPE supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic showed it was now more important than ever to establish an Australian-based gown testing facility.

“PPE is necessary for healthcare workers to protect themselves from being infected – this includes gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns and aprons,” Professor Reynolds explained.

“During the pandemic, there has been grave concerns for PPE availability as demand for this equipment increased rapidly, and there has also been misuse, hoarding and theft, combined with reduced supply because of transport and export restrictions.

“I don’t think gowns and masks crossed anyone’s mind before now, they were just gowns and masks - but now everyone is talking about PPE and the ramifications of not having a stable supply.”

At present, gowns need to be sent overseas to undergo strict manufacturing and testing standards. But the new Tonsley-based gown testing facility aims to fast-track the process for Australian-based manufacturers and get good quality, safe PPE into hospitals faster.

The $38,000 Flinders Foundation grant provided equipment and initial staffing to establish the facility, where various gown fabrics will be tested for their resistance to blood borne pathogens, as well as undergoing impact and pressure tests.

Pathogens will also be grown on-site to create an environment where gowns are tested against some of the very viruses and bacteria that cause disease.

“The idea is that manufacturers can bring their gowns here, we can run the tests and they can move forward with production, meanwhile hospital services can be confident their staff are properly protected,” Professor Reynolds said.

Any tests performed will be done under contract with manufacturers for an appropriate fee.

The gown testing facility builds on a recent move by the State Government, Flinders University and UniSA to develop the South Australian Mask Testing Facility at Tonsley to test respirator and surgical masks produced by local manufacturer Detmold.

“Since the announcement of the mask testing facility, we’ve been inundated by requests to undertake testing for more than 30 companies and healthcare providers from across Australia and New Zealand and we now expect there to be interest in gown testing also,” Professor Reynolds said.

Thank you for generously supporting Flinders Heroes – the bright minds looking to make inroads and new discoveries into the COVID-19 pandemic.


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