STARC Systems panels are used to create an isolation rooms in a hospital. Contributed photo

BRUNSWICK — STARC Systems in Brunswick is ramping up production of a product the company hopes can help hospitals contain the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. 

The 50-employee company, one of the first industrial tenants at Brunswick Landing’s TechPlace, typically manufactures “temporary modular wall containment systems” for hospital renovations, keeping construction dust, debris and pathogens sealed off from immunocompromised patients using negative pressure.

Now, officials are doubling — and hope to quadruple — production.

The units can also be used to configure instant isolation rooms and quarantine sections of a hospital, ideally protecting both health care workers and their patients in situations where hospitals or repurposed facilities may be overwhelmed, according to Brian Hamilton, director of healthcare and life sciences for Consigli Construction.

The telescoping units can be configured to fit different spaces, meaning they can easily be sterilized and reused.

The company hopes to get these units out fast so hospitals around the country can use them as soon as possible. 

In the United States, there are more than 120,000 confirmed cases of the virus, more than any other country in the world. The virus can cause fever, coughing, shortness of breath and in some cases, pneumonia and death. 

“Time is our biggest concern,” Chris Vickers, STARC CEO said in a statement. “Health care facilities need isolation rooms now, not two months from now.”

STARC Systems panels are used to section off a hospital wing. Contributed photo

According to Tim Hebert, co-founder and chairman of the board, the company did not have to pivot or change design.

“Unlike a lot of the companies you’re reading about today that are changing up their manufacturing, (we’re) just making what we already make,” Hebert said. 

The only adjustment is the speed.

“The need is now and we’re trying to adjust for that. We’re working to partner with other Maine companies to utilize resources of people that would otherwise be unemployed and to accelerate production,” he said. While other companies are making layoffs in a time of economic uncertainty, “We’re hiring as fast as we can going in the opposite direction,” he said. 

At the same time though, STARC Systems is trying to maintain the wellbeing of existing employees, with additional shifts, staggered break times and increased distance between workers in the manufacturing space. 

Additionally, the company is slated to move to a larger facility in May, but is trying to speed up the process to allow for more room to spread out sooner than later. 

Hebert sees this as an opportunity for the company to continue to innovate and expand the uses for their product long term.

“I just see this whole dilemma we’re all facing… we’re all going to change how we do business no matter what industry we’re in,” he said and it is going to “redefine how we come out of this.”

“It’s not just about COVID-19, it’s about how we are prepared for something of this nature moving forward. We have to be thinking about how we live and work and how we adjust to this changing environment.’ 

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