By Eric Althoff
BRUNSWICK, Me.—Temporary wall manufacturer STARC Systems has announced that it is redirecting the entirety of its operations into the construction of critical care isolation rooms for the nation’s healthcare facilities at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has seen hospitals struggling to provide adequate patient care. STARC, which is headquartered a half-hour from Portland, said the purpose of this shift was to create more overflow space for healthcare facilities crucially in need of space to treat covid-19 patients and keep them segregated from those who do not have the virus—as well as reduce the chances that healthcare workers themselves will contract the disease while providing treatment to those already infected.
Prior to the pandemic, STARC’s “temporary wall” units were utilized primarily as a way to reduce the chances of dust, debris and pathogens moving from construction worksites to patients during renovation projects at hospitals including Massachusetts General Hospital, Cleveland Clinic and Seattle Children’s. However, the new paradigm for the separation device is, rather than keeping germs “in,” to prevent them from escaping the enclosed facility, which the firm accomplishes with what it calls “negative pressure isolation anterooms and airborne infection isolation rooms (AIIR).” Entire wings of a facility can thus be isolated with the temporary walls to effectively craft new standalone rooms.
In the final week of March, STARC Systems, based in Brunswick, announced that its work was considered “essential” at a time when Maine Gov. Janet Mills ordered many businesses—mostly in hospitality, entertainment and service—to cease most operations. Maine’s border with Canada was also closed in the middle of last month to non-essential international traffic.
To meet the demand for negative pressure isolation rooms, STARC is working in concert with vendors to speed up the procurement of raw materials and also increasing the number of shifts for workers to produce the temporary walls. STARC’s existing customers are being asked to donate any of their previously purchased, but unused, wall panels to local healthcare facilities to increase the ability to fashion more isolation rooms.
Furthermore, STARC’s production facilities were redesigned so that workers can maintain adequate “social distancing” during their shifts. STARC is also granting its employees extra sick days as they continue working during the pandemic.
“With the unprecedented health risks our country is facing, we knew we had to quickly repurpose and increase our resources to help reduce the spread of coronavirus,” Chris Vickers, president and CEO of STARC Systems, said in a statement. “Time is our biggest concern. Healthcare facilities need isolation rooms now, not two months from now. Significantly investing in our production facility will ensure we meet more demand and avoid any delays.”
STARC said that its isolation rooms exceed the ICRA Class IV and ASTM E-84 healthcare requirements for infection control, and that their surfaces can be quite easily and quickly disinfected.
Brian Hamilton, director of healthcare and life sciences at client Consigli Construction, said that his firm has relied for years on STARC’s solutions to providing a safe environment for healthcare workers and patients during renovation projects. “Now, STARC has become critical in our response to provide hospitals with immediate patient isolation rooms to reduce the spread of coronavirus,” Hamilton said in a statement.
STARC Systems’ previous work has included projects at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic.
“As an ‘essential’ infrastructure company, we feel a great deal of responsibility to do all we can while maintaining the health and safety of our employees,” said Vickers, STARC’s president and CEO.