Since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, a continual challenge has been getting personal protective equipment (PPE) into the hands of frontline medical workers who need it. With supply lines across the world strained Verdict spoke to Masks For Docs, a campaign using the internet to connect medical personnel directly with individuals and suppliers to get the gear they need.

The goal of the campaign is to do one thing, that being ‘Get protective supplies into the hands of healthcare workers as quickly as possible.’ This involved medical staff registering online, and then being connected to suppliers or simply individuals with 3D printers and sewing machines who send supplies directly to hospitals or individual doctors and nurses, cutting out the middleman.

Masks For Docs also accepts donations of any sizes to maintain supply lines and ensure supplies get where they needed when they are needed.

How Masks for Docs is helping distribute PPE

Explaining the process, a representative from Masks For Docs told Verdict: “Donors/makers register their supplies and hospitals/clinics register their requests on our website — then we match local supplies and delivery drivers with facilities in need. Our backend logistics platform is being built in collaboration with Distribute Aid, a global refugee aid organisation.”

Linking the supply chain together is a mix of Slack channels, volunteers, Reddit and more, with the group using social media and communications networks to connect its volunteers with the staff that need equipment.

In some examples, members have been seen replying to Reddit threads from hospital workers telling them to register to the campaign in order to get them PPE.

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So far Masks For Docs told Verdict that it has so far delivered over 100,000 face masks and “tens of thousands” of face shields in the past seven weeks. On its website, the campaign says it has access to thousands of 3D printers owned by volunteers that are being used to constantly churn PPE to ensure a continual supply line is available.

A global effort to manufacture PPE

Making up the campaign are over 115 local chapters supporting regional efforts made up of over 5,000 volunteers. The PPE produced and supplied by these volunteers is currently being delivered across six continents, making connectivity between the groups paramount.

3D printing face shields has become a vital way for the public and companies’ to assist in ensuring PPE supply needs are met. Efforts to 3D print PPE have been undertaken by everyone from BAE Systems using industrial capacities to school’s computing departments making use of now unused capacity.

To help ensure everyone who has the ability to can manufacture PPE, Masks For Docs has also made available a cache of 3D printing and sewing resources that can be downloaded from their website. The resources include Face Shield templates, sewing patterns for masks and gowns, to name a few.

Masks For Docs added: “PPE supplies have been depleted due to consumers panic-buying and hoarding supplies and a disruption of supply chains worldwide due to travel and work restrictions.

“Surgical face shields can be printed by anyone with a 3D printer, so volunteers all over the globe of all ages have jumped in to help.”

Read more: Coronavirus case studies: How Whitgift School is manufacturing hospital visors