City will invest in project to improve air quality at Schoellkopf Health Center

Apr. 18—Falls Mayor Robert Restaino announced Monday that he will propose spending $39,000 from the Niagara Falls Community Development COVID-19 Fund for an innovative new air sterilization project at the Schoellkopf Health Center.

The Schoellkopf center is a 120-bed nursing home located on the Niagara Falls Medical Center campus.

“Advanced age, frailty and communal living conditions make nursing home residents especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and other airborne viruses,” Restaino said. “Frail elderly nursing home residents are at great risk of contracting viruses because traditional ventilation and filtration systems are not able to remove small viral particles from the air.”

The mayor said the Schoellkopf project will aim to protect patients at its facility while also producing data that can pave the way for similar projects at nursing facilities throughout Western New York.”

Memorial Medical Center President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo commended the city administration for its ongoing support of the Schoellkopf Health Center and the larger medical center complex.

“We are truly grateful for the investments the mayor and his team continue to make in projects that help Niagara Falls Memorial protect and promote the health of the residents of the city,” Ruffolo said. “These contributions include funding for neighborhood-based Covid testing, a mobile health van that brings healthcare to underserved communities, upgrades to the Schoellkopf Health Center’s exterior sidewalks and driveway and, most recently, funding for improvements to the historic Schoellkopf Park, including lighting, plantings, and pedestrian pathways.”

The air sterilization project has been developed and advanced by Rethink WNY, an organization comprised of healthcare professionals from the State University of New York at Buffalo and other regional organizations and businesses.

The $39,000 in proposed funding will supplement a $190,000 donation for the purchase of air sterilization equipment for the project that is being made by You First Services, a Buffalo-based company, dedicated to introducing healthcare applications and solutions.

The air sterilization technology that will be applied to the Schoellkopf project was developed in collaboration with the State University of New York at Buffalo and the U.S. Department of Defense. Air sterilization destroys more than 99.99% of all pathogens from air samples. That differs from HEPA filtration which may allow the pass through of viruses, mold, small bacteria and allergens and does not inactivate those contaminants.

A SteriSpace air sterilization system will be installed to serve the Schoellkopf Health Center’s Resident Recreation Room. The 1,504 square foot ground level room poses a risk for transmission of airborne diseases because it is a high traffic and high occupancy space. Residents congregate there to watch movies, read books and engage in other extracurricular activities, putting them at risk.

The SteriSpace units will be installed outside the facility, at ground level. The units will be equipped with a heating and cooling system to remove potentially contaminated air and supply sterile, proper temperature air back into the space.

The grant award will be specifically dedicated to equipment installation, air sample assessments to measure the effect of air sterilization on air quality, project management, and data analysis.

The project is expected to be completed by August.