An eastern P.E.I. company that manufactures advanced robotic equipment is stepping up to make protective face shields for Island health-care workers.

“We kind of put our heads together and came up with a product that we can build in great quantity, at virtually no cost, because we have all of the parts in stock,’’ said Harold Phillips, the company’s sales and marketing manager.

“It’s just a matter of retooling some of our equipment to make it work. We’re not looking to profit off this. Since our industry is kind of quiet right now, we thought, ‘why not help out instead of just sitting back and letting everyone else do the work’. We should keep busy as well.’’

Like so many other businesses, MarineNav, located just outside Montague, has experienced a slowdown during the current coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic and was forced to temporarily lay off some of the 25 Islanders it employs.

But, instead of riding it out, management decided to do something to help out by creating a whole new product that could be a benefit during the pandemic. The company also decided to donate every single one of the face shields it manufactures.

Some of the employees who were laid off have returned to produce as many face shields as they can put out. 

MarineNav is in discussions with nursing homes, long-term care facilities and Health P.E.I. to get an idea of what the need is. The company’s plant will be able to produce up to 75 face shields per week, and Phillips said they will all be reusable. They just need to be wiped down and sanitized to be used again.

“We looked at existing designs that are out there and, essentially, mimicked them. These are designed for workers that may want that added piece of protection.’’

The face shield extends down past the chin and around almost to the ears.

Phillips said getting through this pandemic is going to take everyone working together and, in MarineNav’s case, companies that reimagine what they normally do and focus their energies and skills to help the health-care field.

“We’re asking so much of our health-care workers and we know that there’s a big fear and lots of anxiety that supplies are going to run short,’’ Phillips said. “They are working tireless hours.

We just want to take that fear and anxiety away. And the best-case scenario is that our (face shields) never have to be used, but if it does get to that we want to put people’s minds at ease that there are local companies willing to step up and are stepping up. We just want to do our part.’’

Health Minister James Aylward said this is yet another example of Islanders sticking together in tough times.

"I've visited their facilities and I've met with the owners and staff. Not only are they a great Island company, they are stepping up when Islanders need them the most,'' Aylward said.

The minister also wanted to give a shoutout to the Dental Association of P.E.I. With all of the offices closed due to the pandemic, the associating is also donating protective equipment to front-line health-care workers.