Inventors are working to find ways to help in the global shortages of equipment in the battle against COVID-19. (Black Press Media files)

Inventors are working to find ways to help in the global shortages of equipment in the battle against COVID-19. (Black Press Media files)

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

If Plato was correct when he said that necessity is the mother of invention, then the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic fits that statement extremely well.

From ventilators to hospital gowns to face masks, companies across the country have altered the focus of their businesses to help fill the critical need for additional medical equipment across Canada and beyond. So too have a number of B.C. inventors – at least one as young as 14 years old.

In the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, a group of three have formed “Project Draw Breath” to use 3D printers to create ventilator masks. A ventilator is a machine which pumps air into a person’s lungs to assist breathing.

That group, which first included 14-year-old Alex Marsh and Dr. Richard Walton, has since expanded to 10 people helping create the special masks. As they apply to health officials for testing, the group has also created easy-to-construct plastic face shields.

READ MORE: Cowichan Valley team using 3D printing to quadruple ventilator capacity

West Kootenay octogenarian, Peter Brockley, has teamed up with his doctor son with the goal of developing a prototype for a low-cost version of the respiratory machine.

“They’re basically an air pump,” Dr. Graham Brockley told Black Press Media. “A simple one is not theoretically hard to build, but they’re in short supply.”

READ MORE: Father and son work to develop low-cost ventilator for COVID-19 patients

In Williams Lake, a sewing group has launched a Cariboo Sew Strong campaign on social media, sharing patterns and advice on how to make a variety of face masks for first responders.

Similar initiatives are being seen all across the province, including in the Okanagan, Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.

“I know that these masks will not replace [N95 masks], but I’m just trying to do what I can,” said Comox Valley resident Lauren Lan.

READ MORE: Fraser Valley crafters are busy sewing cotton masks for health-care workers

However, Health Canada has urged health-care workers to use caution when considering homemade masks.

Federal government admits it didn’t have enough protective gear

Since the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization in early March, Canadian officials have been working to obtain surgical masks and other medical equipment for health-care workers on the frontlines.

“It is an extremely competitive space right now for personal protective equipment. We are pulling out all of the stops … trying to procure equipment in a global situation where equipment is extremely tight,” Health Minister Patty Hadju said during a news conference on Wednesday (April 1).

Hadju acknowledged that the race to gather equipment is due to not having enough protective equipment in its emergency stockpile.

Three large-scale medical companies – Thornhill Medical, Medicom and Spartan Biomedics – have signed agreements with the federal government to provide test kits, N95 masks and ventilators.

– with files from John Boivin, Robert Barron and Monica Lamb-Yorski

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rotary Club of Prince Rupert members Kelly Sawchuck and Adrienne Johnston prepare Christmas trees on Dec. 4 in Prince Rupert for the annual sale. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
300 Christmas trees arrive in Prince Rupert

Rotary Club Christmas tree sales are now on, with a high demand for trees during COVID-19

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where one employee is still currently isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was first declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
54 positive COVID-19 cases associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

There’s been a two-person increase in positive cases since Tuesday (Dec. 1)

K-J Millar/The Northern View
8 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the Northern Health Authority

Since Nov. 27, there have been 191 new cases reported in NHA

Five to six years of log accumulation at Diana Lake Provincial Park is currently being cleaned up by a District of Port Edward and Parks BC partnership. (Photo: Supplied by District of Port Edward)
Diana Lake Provincial Park clean up underway

Port Edward District spearheaded the park clean up securing $80,000 in funds from Ridley Terminal

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PHSA bought faulty respirators; spent money on catering, renovations: Dix

Such spending included ‘unnecessary, unbudgeted renovations’ to the authority’s headquarters in Vancouver

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan releases his election platform, Vancouver, Oct. 6, 2020, featuring COVID-19 relief payments promised for most households. (B.C. NDP photo)
Next $1.5 billion in B.C. COVID-19 cash ‘prudent,’ Horgan says

New round of payments for household incomes up to $175,000

Most Read