With a global shortage of key elements for Covid-19 tests, Sligo University Hospital (SUH) put a call out to their neighbours at IT Sligo to see if they could help.

Dr Jeremy Bird, Head of the School of Science at the college, quickly responded. He scoured his own stocks and then drove to the ITs in Athlone and Galway to raid their stores, as well as using contacts in the UK to secure a small quantity of another elusive ingredient from there.

The result now is that scientists at a laboratory in IT Sligo are making two critical elements of the Covid-19 tests.

They are preparing the viral transfer medium for nasal swabs and a Lysis solution which is used in the extraction of RNA from the virus which is then used to diagnose the presence of the virus in the nasal swab.

Supplying the two reagents has facilitated 1,000 tests so far in Sligo and Letterkenny and Dr Bird said they are continually seeking out supplies of what they need. 

Dr Bird is confident they can continue to support their colleagues in the HSE and SUH for as long as they need them to.

The co-operation between the IT and the hospital is long-standing but in the current crisis it has expanded greatly.

Personal Protective Equipment from laboratories and technical workshops in the college was donated to medical staff with the first request for assistance.

A request for ventilators was met with a team coming together in the School of Engineering and Design to design a prototype ventilator which is now almost ready for production.

Head of Department, Úna Parsons, said staff and students have been making facial masks on their 3-D printers but now, with the help of local industry, they are going to set up a mini-production line to produce thousands of masks a week and in so doing, she hopes they will meet the regional demand for masks among hospitals and nursing homes.

For Dr Omar Tujjar, Consultant Anaesthetist and Intensivist in SUH, the work and support of staff and phD students at the IT has been heartwarming.

The vision of the hospital is prepardness, he said, safety for our staff and providing the best and safest care for patients and the IT is helping with that vision.

It is truly uplifting, Dr Tujjar said, and that's what we need now.