Sat | Dec 4, 2021

Wisynco breathes new life into patient care

Published:Monday | April 27, 2020 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Craig Clare, head of operations at Wisynco, talks about the game-changing spacers project that has been born out of collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Shamar Stones sanitising a PET bottle used in the production of spacers for the health sector.
Craig Clare explains the process of shaping moulten plastic into spacers, which enhance the dispersion of medication.
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It was a simple engineering twist on a breathing apparatus to enhance the delivery and precision of medication dosage. In the end, the collaboration between two teams from drink manufacturer Wisynco and medical staff at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) is making a life-changing difference for patients with COVID-19.

Spacers, 2,000 of them, have been made by Wisynco at its Lakes Pen, St Catherine, plant and distributed to the KPH, The University Hospital of the West Indies, the Bustamante Hospital for Children, and Spanish Town Public Hospital, with a manufacturing target of 5,000 to meet the anticipated demand by other hospitals.

Working from a retrofitted shipping container last Wednesday, Victor Henry was using a blowtorch to heat 7/8-inch metal piping before pressing the virgin PET bottles on to it, creating a hole in the bottom, before depositing them into a large cardboard box.

They were then picked up by Shamar Stones, who placed a food-grade plastic pipe through the hole and cemented it in place with silicone, with about a full inch sticking out. The finished spacers are then sanitised and packaged in sealed plastic bags for delivery.

And how does it work? The metered-dose inhaler fits snugly into the hose at the bottom of the bottle, and the patient puts the top into their mouth. The patient inhales the medication, which is then uniformly dispersed into the lungs for more effective application.

Senior medical officer at the KPH Dr Natalie Whylie said that the game-changing initiative was born out of intense consultations between her staff and the team at Wisynco, followed by experimentation that is paying huge dividends.

Whylie said that children and some adults who use a metered dosage inhaler, often referred to locally as an ‘asthma pipe’, often have difficulty coordinating their breathing to get the maximum benefits from the medication dispensed through the pressurised canister.

“When we reached out to Wisynco ..., they sent me a video with what they had designed, and we were having a back-and-forth discussion with their team members as they ran with my idea and also with my team members, who are the experts – certainly, the emergency-room consultants and our infectious-disease specialists,” said Whylie.

Once they had settled on the effectiveness of the design, Wisynco went into full manufacturing mode.

“So that is what they did, and it has changed the way we function, not only in our emergency rooms but also on our medical wards,” the senior medical officer told The Gleaner. “So when you come into the KPH, you are given the spacer, which is yours, so you keep it for the time that you are in the emergency room, and you go home with it.”

Relatively cheap to manufacture, Wisynco has allocated $3 million for an estimated 5,000 spacers and has plans to upsize that target if demand rises. That number is a small price to pay for the difference the devices are making in the national fight against COVID-19, according to acting head of operations, Craig Clare.

“We’re not new to challenges. Wisynco has a culture of being prepared to take on big challenges,” he told The Gleaner. “We’ll be able to supply as many as are needed because we’re doing about a 100 day, but we can go up to 500 a day if necessary.”

Whylie was full of praise for the ad hoc efforts of the manufacturer that has enlisted in the COVID-19 response.

“Once we said to them, ‘This is what we want’, they then ran with it ... ,” she gushed.

“A lot of the legwork, they did, even finding the correct size of the hose ... . The collaboration has been phenomenal!”

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com