Eastern Health has jumped another hurdle in its efforts to acquire adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local company DF Barnes has been signed on as a supplier of medical gowns manufactured by East Coast Converters of Mount Pearl, for use by frontline health workers.
The news follows Health Canada’s certification last month of plastic face shields produced by PolyUnity, a two-year-old medical technology startup. The company is using 3-D printing to craft thousands of shields a week after receiving help from the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District and TaskforceNL to acquire more printers.
TaskforceNL and Memorial University also played a role in getting the production of gowns up and running.
Apart from face masks, medical gowns have been one of the most difficult pieces of PPE to keep in stock. A month ago, Health Minister Dr. John Haggie told reporters the province’s health-care system uses from 2,500 to 3,000 medical gowns per day.
With more surgeries and medical procedures being restarted, that number is likely rising.
DF Barnes is primarily involved in construction for the offshore oil and mining industries, but as a supplier of manufactured equipment, it changed gears from industrial to medical to help meet the need.
Sean Power, vice-president of business development, said he realized early on that the company would be able to offer local solutions for PPE needs.
"We were eager to help support this valuable work and bring our expertise in quality assurance, safety and manufacturing to the table so we could mobilize the right team and work with local companies to fill this important need,” he said.
The gowns, which were researched and tested with the help of Memorial University, can be produced at a rate of up to 10,000 a week if needed.
TaskforceNL has been sourcing locally made PPE since March. Power says volunteers continue to pursue other avenues for medical equipment.
Supplies of PPE have been a major obstacle for Canada as international sources have dried up or been diverted due to demand.