OSAGE BEACH, Mo. -- When the coronavirus pandemic started, administrators at Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach, knew things could get tough for doctors and nurses when it came to personal protective equipment.
"There was a time where we were questioning whether or not we would have enough equipment and enough masks in order to protect our staff and care for our patients," said Kevin McRoberts, Chief Operating Officer, in a YouTube Video.
McRoberts knew the hospital had to do something.
Administrators got in touch with Aaron Fields from Springfield. He runs a company that disinfects hospital vent systems with UV light.
McRoberts hoped there was a way to do that with N95 masks.
"I decided to try to come up with a solution that could help," Fields said.
Fields and a manufacturer in Tulsa created a machine called the Atlas UV Disinfectant Device. It's the size of a small laundry dryer.
"We built a cabinet, a device that had enough UV-C in it to not only kill the COVID-19 virus, but other bacteria that were much harder to kill," Fields said.
KY3/KSPR's Andrew Havranek wasn't allowed in due to hospital rules,but, a nurse showed him how it worked through video chat.
It takes less than two minutes to sterilize about 30 masks.
"It's a really quick process with lots of them to be done at the same time" said Sherrie Williams, RN.
Those 105 seconds in the UV-C light gives that mask the chance to be worn nearly seven times longer than normal.
Depending on circumstances, that expands the average life span of five days, to 35 days.
"Like in the Emergency Room, I usually work three shifts in a week. That buys me a week-and-a-half of wearing that same mask," Williams noted.
Fields says there are several hospitals in the state now using the machine, something he and the manufacturer donated.
"We're just doing it out of necessity, trying to help whoever we can," Fields said.
Doctors and nurses say they expect to be able to continue to use that machine to help with the PPE shortage, especially if there is a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall.