Camouflage pattern popular for frontline physicians in Penticton

Camo gowns for frontliners

The South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice came up with creative solutions for people working at the new outdoor assessment centre in Penticton, thanks to some community helpers.

A donation of washable, reusable medical gowns is helping keep staff safe, and it all started at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis.

"It was back around March 20 when we were starting to watch what was happening with preparations for the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of best practices pointed at having an outdoor assessment centre and we looked at what that would look like in our community, and what we would need to have staff work safely," said SOS Division of Family Practice executive director Tracy St. Claire. 

"One of the things we looked at was personal protective equipment, and what does that look like for durable gowns in different weather."

St. Claire drove to Fabricland on one of the last days they were open before the shutdown, and stocked up on the best durable, water-repellant nylon fabric that could be laundered she could find. 

"It ended up being the camouflage, hunting outdoor fabric," St. Claire said. "We cleared Fabricland out of everything that they had."

St. Claire then called her seamstress friend Marnel De Kock, asking for help creating a pattern that could turn the reams of fabric into something useful for physicians.

"I think I made two or three prototypes, because it had to be one size fits all," De Kock said. "I was very happy to help."

From there, Diane Jensen of Shades of Linen in Naramata volunteered to cut the fabric to size, and Debra McCracken of the Penticton Quilter's Guild picked up the cause. 

"When it came to me, it was just a number of gowns that needed to be assembled. So I put it out there to my quilters," McCracken said. "Within an hour and a half, everything had been picked up and taken away, and everyone had about five or six to do.

Within four days, roughly 25 gowns had been sewn.

St. Claire explained the washable gowns have been in use ever since, and are a versatile, safe option for frontline workers. 

"You can put it on and take it off more easily [than scrubs], so if it is at all contaminated, they are taking it off in a way that isn't rubbing up against anything else, whereas with scrubs they're grabbing a lot more of the garment," St. Claire said.

McCracken said the Quilter's Guild has plans to help out more as soon as possible, sewing more gowns, scrubs and masks as needed.

"It felt good to be able to do something to help. I know that myself and many of the ladies are asking, what can we do? We can't go help out at the hospital, the nursing homes right now, we just can't," McCracken said. "So this is something we could do. That was a good feeling."

The Penticton outdoor assessment facility, located in the McLaren Arena parking lot, sees an average of 6-8 patients per day from all over the South Okanagan-Similkameen, and staffs one family physician and one nurse practitioner daily, along with support staff. 

The South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice is still in need of donations of personal protective equipment like N95 masks, latex and non-latex gloves, face shields and more. 

For more information on their needs and how to donate, email the organization at [email protected]

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