MHC issues call for personal protective equipment

Linda Erskine, a member of the Current Quilt and Stitchery Guild, sews some cotton masks for the Manitoulin Health Centre.

Residents step up to sew masks for COVID-19 response

MANITOULIN – Like many hospitals across the province, Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) is seeking help from the public in the form of donations of unopened and unexpired personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks, face shields and gowns. 

“We want to assure the public that there is sufficient supply (of PPE) for staff and patients,” Tim Vine, MHC vice president of corporate support services and chief financial officer, told The Expositor. 

“We know there are supply chain issues, specifically with N-95 masks, so we thought we’d reach out to the public and ask for PPE that they would donate to the hospital,” Mr. Vine continued.

Mr. Vine noted that MHC has reached out to local dentist offices which have been generous with their offerings, but noted that they were also limited in supply.

“We suspect that there are certain small businesses—like construction companies that may use PPE for things like demolition—out there,” he said, adding that he has already received calls from the community on their own volition, even before the call for PPE was made public. “We will take whatever the public has, as long as it’s unopened and unexpired.”

The MHC is specifically seeking protective gloves, either vinyl or nitrile, face shields that cover the face and mouth, ear loop masks with a rating of L2 or greater, N-95 masks (NIOSH or CE0) and gowns with an L2 rating or greater. Please contact Debbie Graham at dagraham@mhc.on.ca if you have materials to donate. Currently PPE donations will only be received at the MHC’s Little Current site.

“This is a precautionary measure that we’re taking now in case of widespread COVID-19 on the Island,” Mr. Vine reassured. “N-95 masks are really not appropriate for regular use,” he said, adding that the public should save them for hospital use.

Cotton masks for the Manitoulin Health Centre.

Mr. Vine said he was aware of the hospital auxiliaries’ call for Islanders who are good with a thread and needle to create cotton face masks and while they won’t be a first line of defence, they are most welcome. He noted that during the Spanish flu, these homemade cotton masks were used and proved to be useful in the battle against the deadly flu. 

Once received, the hospital will sanitize them and keep them in stock.

Judy Mackenzie, president of the Mindemoya Hospital Auxiliary and her organization were quick to respond to an email from Dr. Maurianne Reade seeking assistance in creating masks to assist in the effort, as was the Little Current auxiliary.

“One of my roles at the hospital is that I am on the Manitoulin Community Response/Emergency Preparedness and Paramedicine Committee,” said Dr. Reade in noting how she came to enlist the sewing community. She explained that the committee liaises with outside groups in long term planning for when disaster strikes.

One of the critical pieces of PPE are masks to protect medical personnel and others who are caring for patients and, although it is hoped that government efforts to have domestic production ramp up in time to meet the need, Dr. Reade explained that it would be prudent to have a backup plan in place.

To that end, health organizations across the globe have been enlisting 3D printers and other innovative sources for critical medical equipment in short supply. That is where the idea to enlist the Island sewing community came in.

Although the masks fall short of protecting individuals themselves from the virus by full medical standards, they can help to contain the virus spread from those infected and do provide some measure of barrier for those caring for the afflicted. By stitching masks of 100 percent cotton for use by patients and caregivers to contain the spread of the virus, Island residents can help put their shoulders to the wheel in order to preserve the limited supply of PPE masks to protect our critical supply of doctors, nurses and other medical staff.

“The idea is to put them in the self-care kits to be given out to the patients who come to the testing centre,” said Ms. Mackenzie. “They will help provide a little bit of protection and will help conserve medical supplies if they don’t have to use the limited supply.” She noted that it is important that people recognize the masks are not a perfect protection, but just one line of defence.

The group has provided 25 masks to the Municipality of Central Manitoulin for the protection of their personnel and after being approached by Manitoulin Legal Aid Centre board member Mary Alice Lewis, the group is providing masks to help protect the workers in that facility as well. Board chair Linda Erskine has also enlisted the aid of the Little Current Quilt and Stitchery Guild to create masks.

“We have generously been offered material by Debby Turner, of Turners of Little Current, to help with the effort,” said Ms. Erskine, who noted that elastic ribbon is in short supply.

Ms. Mackenzie said that Sharon Watson has provided fabric to her working group as well and she has been making deliveries of elastics.

Those wishing to make donation or assist in the effort can contact judymackenzie@eastlink.ca by email. In Little Current, masks can be dropped off to admitting or by calling Dawn Orr at 705-368-2608.

Patterns for the masks are available online at the Mindemoya Hospital Auxiliary Facebook page.

“This is a great project that will help the community,” said Ms. Mackenzie, noting that the response has been phenomenal.