Community-led initiative supplying alternative PPE for frontline healthcare workers

PPE FOR THREE Workers at the Prince Edward Family Health Team organized COVID-19 pre-assesment centre in Picton with some of the masks produced by the volunteer group PPE for PEC. Nearly 60 local people are making alternative PPE for local frontline healthcare workers. (Submitted Photo)

JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

A network of nearly 60 local volunteers from every corner of Prince Edward County are involved in a massive effort to hand-craft Personal Protective Equipment for use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally, the PPE items were created to be used at the local COVID-19 assessment clinic in Picton however, the network of volunteers from places like Prinyers Cove, Waupoos, Cherry Valley, Picton, Bloomfield, Wellington, Green Point, Ameliasburgh, Northport, Demorestville, Belleville and the Rednersville Road have stepped up their efforts and are now working in concert to create materials for patients at Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital as well as local long-term care facilities and Hospice Prince Edward.

All told, there are about 20 gown sewers in the group and approximately 18 mask sewers and then a number of cutters of materials, washers, delivery people and organizers all volunteering their time and efforts to help protect local health workers and the people they care for as well as take the strain off and supplement the supply of commercially made N95 masks and other surgical grade PPE being used at local hospitals.

The concept to produce hand-crafted PPE came about when the Prince Edward Family Health Team put forward a proposal in early March to open a local Respiratory Assessment clinic to redirect potentially positive COVID-19 patients to a dedicated assessment site. However, as this was a local initiative, Quinte Health Care was not able to supply the clinic with the necessary PPE – such as already scarce masks, gowns, gloves and face shields- necessary to protect those working at the clinic.

One of several organizers involved in the initiative that’s called “PPE for PEC” and has its own dedicated Facebook page Laura Bass explained Dr. Kristin Morrison began researching options for alternative PPE for the COVID-19 pre-assessment centre.

“Since Dr. Morrison has a lot of experience in medicine, research, sewing and pattern development, her job was to develop appropriate patterns and then determine necessary materials that could be used to create (alternative PPE),” Bass told the Gazette.

After sourcing a design, this plan called for the engagement the volunteer sewers, cutters, etc and coordination of the logistics of producing 100 masks which was the first order for the pre-assessment clinic. Bass said Desiree Botting of the Quinte Ballet School was tasked with the role of lead coordinator and initial donations and sewers came by word of mouth – many of them known to the local physicians or health care workers in the hospital or clinics.

The needle and thread brigade grew.

PPE created by Not-so-New Newcomers members of the PPE for PEC group. (Submitted photo)

Rapidly.

The building momentum helped bring in donations of gloves, masks and other PPE equipment, as well as the materials required for producing the gowns and patient masks used in the clinic and more recently the group’s asked to produce masks to be given to patients at the PECMH ER as part of the local effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

A non-sewer, Bass explained she got involved when her friend Sheryl Moorhouse mentioned she was part of a PPE sewing project and had been tapped by her neighbour Dr. Morrison to led her skills to the initiative.

“I decided, being a non sewer myself, that I could help by organizing donations and putting together gown and mask kits, answering email inquiries and doing deliveries, (to save Desiree from doing so much of the deliveries and driving), as well writing weekly email updates to pull everyone together,” Bass added.

Since April 1, the group has produced an incredible 278 gowns and 344 masks that follow a design that meets with Dr. Morrison’s approval.

“Any sewers are welcome to sew masks from one of our mask kits which include the pre cut fabric and pre cut wire and elastic for the ear,” Bass explained. “We are really trying to encourage people to use the mask sewing instructions available at PPE for PEC on Facebook or we can send them the mask (or gown) sewing instructions by through the email ppe4pec@gmail.com. Dr. Morrison has researched the best fit and this pattern is a bit wider then many others and includes the horizontal pleats as well as bottom pleats that draw the mask closer to the face below the chin for more protection.”

Collating and accepting donations of fabric, wire and materials, washing fabric, cutting everything to the required patterns, sewing, collecting the finished PPE and then distributing the materials that have produced by careful and talented hands and sincere hearts at a time when its needed most shouldn’t be lost on anyone in this community.

These and other stories of volunteers that are going above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep our frontline healthcare workers safe are inspiring.

“I think our community in Prince Edward County is absolutely amazing,” Bass enthused.”I am completely astounded at the volume of fabric that has been washed, cut and sewn into masks and gowns in such a short period of time. It’s all very impressive.”

Those interested in donating any fabric or sheets, or who are interested in cutting gowns from a pattern provided or of course interested in sewing either masks or gowns they can contact Desiree Botting through the Facebook page PPE for PEC or email ppe4pec@gmail.com .