Memorial Medical Center Provides Free Respiratory Fit Testing for Local Agencies
Memorial Medical Center (MMC), Ashland, WI has a Respiratory Protection Program in place for staff and community organizations. This standard hospital program includes High-Efficiency Particular Aerator (HEPA) mask education, Power Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) education, and N-95 mask fit testing. Fit testing and mask safety training is necessary for anyone who is in a situation where there may be airborne diseases or other harmful airborne particles present, for instance, pharmacists need to have this training for masking while they are mixing certain treatment formulas. The Fit training is also an annual OSHA requirement for some businesses but during COVID 19 pandemic these requirements have been relaxed as long as individuals were compliant with HEPA Fit testing in 2019. During the mask Fit training, a trained instructor will take about 15 to 20 minutes with each individual and go through steps and processes to place, remove, and test masks to make sure they are being used properly and fit the person correctly. This testing and education ensure protection from airborne dangers so staff can safely perform their jobs.
Last March when COVID-19 cases began presenting in Northwestern Wisconsin on the South shore of Lake Superior, businesses and organizations were suddenly in need of more face masks and other PPE’s, like the rest of the nation. Facilities such as dentists, oral surgeons, and county services offices were trying to keep their employees up to date with their mask fit testing as well. Businesses wanted to make sure everyone was able to continue working safely while recognizing the potential threat of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
Local businesses reached out to MMC with questions about masks, acquiring Fit testing supplies, and how to get fit testing performed for their staff. Initially, in early 2020, agencies had come to the hospital campus for Fit testing, but with visitor restrictions in place, MMC decided to start a volunteer Fit testing outreach service to accommodate businesses in the community. The hospital Cardiopulmonary Department director along with assistance from other hospital staff spent hours of their personal free time to help protect our fellow essential businesses and their customers. Meanwhile, the hospital cut back on the Fit trainings for their own staff due to the shortage of N95 masks since the testing process takes masks out of circulation that could be out to use on the front line of operations. Fit testing instructor, Rob Jones says, “We wanted to help the people of our community be able to safely work in any environment where COVID-19 might potentially exist. This is just one of the tangible ways we are trying to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our area.”
As of September 2020, MMC had provided courtesy fit testing for more than seven organizations in their community. Requests for Fit training are still being processed, and MMC will continue to provide this important service to the Chequamegon Bay region as long as is needed during COVID 19 pandemic. Their dedication is admirable and a true example of a community coming together to pool their resources in the time of a pandemic.