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Newfoundland and Labrador construction company fashions a whole new purpose

File photo— Reuters

D.F. Barnes producing badly needed medical gowns for Eastern Health

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

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 supplier for locally manufactured medical gowns for use by frontline health workers — a first for Newfoundland and Labrador.

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 John Haggie told reporters the province’s health-care system eats up anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 medical gowns per day.

With more surgeries and medical procedures being restarted over the last month, that number is likely rising.


A month ago, Health Minister John Haggie told reporters the province’s health-care system eats up anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 medical gowns per day.


DF Barnes is primarily involved in construction for the offshore oil and mining industries, but as a supplier of manufactured equipment, it was able to change gears from industrial to medical to help meet the need.

Sean Power, vice-president of business development, said he realized early on 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.

Up to 10,000 of the gowns, which were researched and tested with the help of Memorial University, can be produced weekly.

TaskforceNL has been sourcing locally made PPE since March. Power says members continue to pursue other avenues for medical equipment.

Supplies of PPE has been a major obstacle for Canada as international sources have dried up or been diverted due to demand.

Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering health care for The Telegram.

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