The goal of the process is to create an emergency supply of N95 masks, in partnership with the province, for hospitals to use during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the event of a mask shortage.
“This is a critical initiative that we hope will save lives and protect our healthcare providers,” said Volker Gerdts, director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Center (VIDO-InterVac ) at the U of S.
N95 masks can be decontaminated for reuse between five and 10 times, according to Gerdts. He added that the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has set the decontamination limit five times.
VIDO-InterVac could probably decontaminate up to “a few thousand” masks per week, says Gerdts. The process itself takes about two and a half days.
The thing that takes the most time is to wait for the validation of the biological indicators used to ensure the proper functioning of the procedure.
Gerdts said the process could be extended to other personal protective equipment (PPE) and is an excellent emergency plan in case of a potential shortage.
Four VIDO-InterVac staff members gave time to assist in the decontamination process, he added.
The only cost is transporting the masks, according to the PPE working group for the SHA. Medical personnel from across the province collect masks.
“It’s important that we have backups on backups on backups,” said Dr. Michael Kelly, co-chair of the task force.
It is too early to determine how far the process could expand supplies in the province, said Kelly.
Any mask reintroduced into the job market will be preceded by a public announcement from the province if it gets to this point.