By Jim Newell
Hospitals around the country are desperately seek N95 respirator masks to protect health care workers treating COVID-19 patients, but are also running short on all surgical masks, gowns and other equipment.
Bridgette Giampa, a nurse practitioner at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, has seen, and experienced, firsthand, the personal protective equipment shortages healthcare works face on a daily basis.
“There have been a lot of issues of not having enough equipment for the nurses. What we used to use as a one-time mask, we’re now given to use for a week or a month because there’s not enough of those masks to go around,” Giampa said.
“They had given us surgical masks and told us we’d get one for the week. These are typically a one-time use mask and their disposable. They said, ‘We don’t have enough, so you get one for the week.’”
Which is why Giampa contacted Peggy Barry Bartz, a seamstress and owner of Glimmering Whims and Weddings, to create cloth cover masks to go over the disposable masks.
The cover masks help protect the surgical masks so that they are not as contaminated as they would have been. Nurses can then wash and reuse the cover masks and preserve their disposable masks a bit longer.
“We’re kind of working with bits and pieces of equipment and doing the best we can, which is difficult,” Giampa said.
“Medical personnel are so short of masks right now. Anything that laypeople can do to assist them we need to do because they are on the front lines,” Bartz said. “I can’t go into the hospital and help people, but (healthcare workers) are in danger all of the time of getting the virus because they don’t have enough protective equipment.”
Bartz has made nearly 200 cover masks so far, and also makes gowns for doctors and nurses.
“If I can help protect one person from getting the Coronavirus because they have a shield over the (surgical) mask that they have to reuse over and over, then I will,” Bartz said.
Bartz makes the masks for free for medical personnel, but does accept donations to help with production costs.
Healthcare workers, or the general public, who want to order cloth cover masks can contact Bartz at 586-242-0884.