Even before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put out a plea last week for Canadian firms to step up and help bolster hospitals’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, serial entrepreneur Dave Caputo was working behind the scenes to do just that.

Last Monday, Caputo, the former CEO and co-founder of Waterloo’s Sandvine, met with his 40-member team at his new startup, Trusscore, and talked about ways they could repurpose the company’s Palmerston, Ont., factory to make a product that hospitals could use.

Within a couple of days they had four prototypes drawn up. They quickly settled on one and, not long after that, their factory was working around the clock to crank them out.

And tomorrow, Monday, the first of the new products are expected to be delivered to Grand River Hospital – 10 configurable panels, each of them six feet by eight feet, designed to enable hospitals to quickly create “rooms” to wall off COVID-19 patients from those with other ailments. The panels, made of a fully recyclable and antimicrobial-coated polymer, enable hospitals to repurpose existing space to handle expected surges in patients in the coming days and weeks. They're being made available at no cost to the hospital.

“These temporary walls are a great piece of the solution to that problem,” Dr. Jay Green, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Grand River Hospital and St. Mary’s General Hospital, told Communitech News via email Sunday.

“[People] show up every day [at the hospital] with issues not related to COVID-19 and [others are] are afraid to come. It is critical that we offer them a safe place to get the emergency care they need without the worry of catching this infection in our waiting room or department.”

Trusscore Branded Graphic for Temporary Hospital Walls

Temporary walls donated to Grand River Hospital by Trusscore,
the new company of serial entrepreneur Dave Caputo,
will give the hospital the ability to quickly repurpose
space for the fight against COVID-19.

walls donated to Grand River Hospital by Trusscore, the new company of serial entrepreneur Dave Caputo, will give the hospital the ability to quickly repurpose space for the fight against COVID-19.[/caption]

Trusscore's contribution is far from the only one emerging from Waterloo Region. Over the past several days, the region's technology and medical communities have connected through personal contacts and peer-to-peer groups to quickly join forces and generate solutions.

Several companies have stepped up, among them, InkSmith, a Kitchener-based company specializing in laser cutting and 3D printing. It has, within days, come up with a way to turn out face shields for front-line medical workers and are recruiting other companies and organizations that are in a position to help manufacture more; several have already stepped up.

Staff at Cambridge Memorial Hospital were testing them on Sunday. “This past 24 hours has been an absolute whirlwind,” tweeted InkSmith founder and CEO Jeremy Hedges. “Really honoured to be able to help!”

Companies big and small are looking to pitch in. On Friday, Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz told the Guelph Mercury Tribune that the Guelph-based auto parts manufacturer is “actively investigating the feasibility” of producing ventilators for hospitals.

“We are hopeful that we can play a role in helping to deal with the consequences of this global pandemic,” Hasenfratz said.

Companies are preparing to pitch in not only with medical hardware help, but with expertise, too. Miovision CEO Kurtis McBride Sunday morning emailed a number of contacts throughout the local tech ecosystem, alerting them that they can help local hospitals scale their operational capacity by contributing people with expertise in project management, logistics and procurement, recruitment and cleaning and housekeeping.

New Hamburg physician Sarah Rinaldi, meanwhile, has spearheaded the creation of a website dedicated to marshalling help, linking businesses and members of the community who had supplies, ideas or capability.

For Caputo, the events of the past few days have thrust his company into the spotlight before it had even properly launched. Previously known as MSW Plastics, the name was changed just a couple weeks ago to Trusscore Material Science. The company eventually intends to manufacture a replacement for painted construction drywall.

“Worldwide, we’re in an unprecedented set of circumstances,” said Caputo.

“When we met last Monday, we decided to turn the question around. Rather than ask, ‘How are we going to react to this,’ we thought: ‘What can we do to help?’ And that led us to this product.”

It was music to the ears of Green and his staff in the ER departments at the two Kitchener hospitals.

Dave called me to offer his company's assistance. He knew that temporary walls may be an important way to limit spread of this virus between individuals by isolating them from each other, especially in the emergency department and the waiting room,” said Green, who added that St. Mary’s Hospital will shortly be meeting to determine how it, too, can make use of the Trusscore product.

“We are so blessed to have such innovative, generous and talented people in this community coming together to help find solutions like [these],” said Green.