Despite early preparation, hospices and hospitals all over the globe are experiencing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the foreseeable future. With masks on back order and patient visits as crucial as ever, volunteers in the community have stepped up to offer their time and sewing skills to help support the urgent needs of Blue Ridge Hospice (BRH). 

“We are very short on face masks. We are not alone as most health care systems, and hospices, around the globe are very short on supply,” says Dr. Brendan Flynn, Chief Medical Officer at BRH, “Hospital systems across the country are asking their community members who love sewing to pitch in and make hand-made, fabric face masks for clinical staff caring for patients. BRH is doing the same.” 

After receiving the mask-making instructions, volunteers and staff got to work with the goal of making enough washable, re-usable face masks for each clinical staff member to have multiple masks to use during their daily patient care.

These masks are compliant with CDC requirements of barrier face masks and will be effective in blocking droplets.  “They are not the ideal, first choice for mask-wear but, in times such as these, they will provide ongoing protection if/when our surgical masks supplies become critically low.  So many hospices across the country have no masks so we are fortunate to have the community we do around us who want to help keep us safe”, said Flynn. 

“This is because our volunteers, and community at large, want to help us,” says Tonia Sweeney, Volunteer Services Manager at BRH, “so many of our staff and volunteers who visit and care for our patients now are left unable to do so due to COVID-19 safety concerns and yet they still want to help our organization.” 

“All volunteers and employees across Blue Ridge Hospice have really come together regardless of their roles; clinical, administrative, thrift and warehouse, to make the masks and help however they can. Our patient and family volunteers, who provide emotional support and companionship, are continuing to call patients and their families – this is more important than ever with most people self-isolating,” says Sweeney, “Dr. Flynn said, ‘people want to help so let’s put them to work’ and we jumped into action.”

“Dr. Flynn has been on top of the situation from the very beginning,” says Sweeney,  “he has taken this very seriously and has ensured that our staff and volunteers were kept informed of the latest updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and taking appropriate measures to protect themselves and our patients. Blue Ridge Hospice will come out of this stronger than ever.” 

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