Local healthcare facilities focused on preparedness, supplies

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Stack of homemade face masks

Ally Telfor

Mikkee West hand-sewed 50 face masks with plans from a local Facebook group.

Stack of homemade face masks
Mikkee West hand-sewed 50 face masks with plans from a local Facebook group.

Across the globe, the nation and the state, healthcare workers and hospitals are experiencing shortages in much-needed medical supplies required to handle the influx of patients with COVID-19. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Monday that, “Without additional aggressive measures, soon our hospitals will be overwhelmed, and we currently don’t even have enough beds, masks, gowns and ventilators.”

She said Michigan’s allotment from the federal government’s national strategic stockpile was not sufficient. “With the exception of the gloves, that allotment is barely enough to cover one shift at that hospital. Not even a full day’s worth of shifts, one shift,” she said. 

According to John Foren, director of marketing and communications at Sparrow Health System, the governor’s orders have helped its hospitals react quickly to the crisis. Foren said Sparrow has been planning its preparation efforts around the clock for approximately three weeks now, in collaboration with various health departments as well as the Michigan Hospital Association.

“From a supply angle, we’re doing OK, but we don’t know what we’re facing.” Foren said. “We’re like every other hospital and health system. We’re just trying to find resources where we can.”

Mikkee West, a Charlotte resident, has used her skills and on-hand supplies to sew masks for the Eaton County Health and Rehabilitation Services. Through a local Facebook group, West said she found patterns for the masks and a community of seamstresses in Eaton County. 

“I went into my crafting closet because I’ve been sewing forever […] and I just pulled out my leftovers from previous projects and I made 50 masks with just what I had in the house,” she said. 

Thanks to her experience in sewing, she made the masks in 14-16 hours before dropping them off. 

West said the group is always accepting donations, whether ¼ or 1/8-inch elastic or pre-washed, 100% cotton fabric. She said as long as there will be a need for the masks, she will continue to sew them. 

Foren said Sparrow has been transitioning its staff and equipment to handle the eventual influx of COVID-19 patients. 

Some of Sparrow’s family medical practices, “have basically closed because everything is focused on urgency,” he said. “That means shifting resources. That’s facility-wise staff-wise, everything.”

Foren said Sparrow hospitals have ramped up screening practices, including taking temperatures, to protect caregivers and patients. 

Jennifer Casarez, RN and emergency preparedness coordinator at the Barry Eaton District Health Department, said personal protection supplies remain vital. 

“There’s no doubt that there’s a decrease in the amount of supplies that’s out there, and hospitals and community partners continue to need that PPE to continue to provide safe care,” Casarez said. 

She said the Barry Eaton Health Department is getting supplies from the national stockpile.

“We are providing that PPE out to those partners that we have in the community that need it.” She said the team is moving as quickly as it can. 

Larger companies and organizations have also been working to innovate during this health crisis. Ford Motor Company announced Tuesday that it’s working with 3M and GE Healthcare to produce medical equipment and protective gear for healthcare workers.

The Sparrow Eaton hospital has already received donations. 

“The outpour of support from the community, in general, has been outstanding,” Foren said.

Donations of hand-sewn masks, booties, and more have been provided by individuals, companies and organizations.

Charlotte collection site

Sparrow Eaton Hospital in Charlotte has announced a collection site for community donations located at the main entrance of Alive! at 800 W. Lawrence in Charlotte. The drop-off site will be open Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. The following new or unopened items will be accepted: disposable face masks, N95 masks (including 3D); eye protection, including face shields and safety goggles; disposable gowns; disposable non-latex gloves; surgical caps; disposable foot covers; bleach; bleach or antimicrobial sanitizing wipes; hand sanitizer; Power Air Purifying Respirators and hoods; nasal swabs; and hand-sewn reusable masks. The hospital asks that anyone wishing to make and donate reusable masks call or email for the approved pattern. The main phone number is 517-543-1099. 

Stay safe

Foren said one of the best ways to support your local healthcare facilities and workers is to practice safe health habits. 

“Our goal is to try to keep people healthy, that’s our ultimate goal.” 

This means continuing social distancing at least 6 feet and washing hands often.

Whitmer said Monday that if citizens do their part and stay home, “we have a shot at helping our healthcare system meet our needs.” 

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