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EDITORIAL: More medical supplies on the way

Stanfields's Ltd., in Truro has made a proposal to the provincial government to call back laid off workers and switch its production to isolation gowns and non-medical face masks to help with supplies needed for frontline COVID-19 workers. HARRY SULLIVAN/TRURO NEWS
Stanfields's Ltd., in Truro has landed a federal deal to make isolation gowns to help with supplies needed for frontline COVID-19 workers. HARRY SULLIVAN/TRURO NEWS - Saltwire

News that Stanfield’s, the iconic Truro-based underwear maker, will quickly pivot to making medical gowns as part of the federal government’s plan to ramp up production of medical supplies, is welcome indeed.

The company’s factory halted production earlier this month, but they now have a deal with Ottawa to supply protective gear for hospital workers as part of a national plan to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

The $2 billion plan is getting manufacturers all over the country to produce gowns and masks, ventilators, testing kits and other supplies that are running short as the health system copes with the initial surge of cases.

Quebec, the province hit the hardest so far in Canada, asked for help this week with some impending shortages, and got some short-term help from Ontario, which agreed to send some equipment.

The bigger effort, however, should prove more lasting, helping hospitals with the shortages and at the same time putting some of the country’s idled manufacturing base back to work.

Stanfield’s CEO Jon Stanfield told SaltWire journalist Harry Sullivan last week that his firm had pitched a plan to make gowns by using material supplied by nearby Intertape Polymer. He said his plant could be running in days, calling back many of the factory’s laid off workers and pumping out 2,000 gowns per day.

It’s good news all around as it creates economic activity in a stalled sector, getting some workers gainful employment.

The bigger picture, though, is worth bearing in mind. The Stanfield’s deal is just part of a way of rethinking our response to pandemics. It’s important to build a domestic supply chain of these goods because the crisis has disrupted many international supply lines, not just of medical gear.

If we can develop homegrown solutions we’ll be less vulnerable to the next pandemic (or the next wave of this pandemic).

And it’s hard to underestimate the value of feeling like you’re contributing to an important national project, something bigger than yourself. Not only are Stanfield’s workers being called back to work, a huge relief to be sure, they’ll be pitching in on the fight against COVID-19. It’s something to be proud of.

It’s also yet another reminder that the precautions we’ve all been dealing with these past few weeks are paying off. Widespread social distancing might have bought us the time to get these supplies into the hands of our health workers before they run out altogether.

Let’s hope they don’t get to the point where they need it all at once.

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