Focusing on rapid capacity growth helps health system meet PPE demand

January 26, 2021


Along with masks and eye protection, one of the most iconic pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) from this pandemic is the ever-important isolation gown.

Health-care employees wear these gowns to protect patients and themselves from the spread of infection. If you’ve had a COVID-19 test, the health-care employee administering it was wearing this yellow PPE.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Saskatchewan health-care partners have seen the need for PPE grow, including the need for reusable isolation gowns. As requests increased, 3sHealth and K-Bro Linen Systems worked together with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to increase their isolation gown supply and ensure that all health-care employees fighting COVID-19 have the PPE they need.

Injecting more PPE into the provincial supply

These new orders have increased total isolation gown capacity by over four times. Before the pandemic, an average of 8,500 gowns circulated every day. In December 2020, the daily average increased to 35,000. The new supply of gowns has been matched by the health system’s efforts to meet the challenges of COVID-19.

Health-care employees have noticed the system’s responsiveness to the increased demand.

“Our isolation gown demand was over 100 times greater when an outbreak was declared at River Heights Lodge in North Battleford,” says Lori Dupuis, the SHA’s Manager of Environmental Services and Linen for the acute and long-term care facilities in the Battlefords, Turtleford, Edam, Cut Knife, and Neilburg. “I’m amazed at how well the system responded to the sudden increased demand. We were not the only facility needing extra linen and their exemplary service entailed sending an extra truck on a Saturday. K-Bro fulfilled all of our orders quickly and 3sHealth’s Linen Services called daily, checking in to see if there was any other support we needed.”

“Everyone in the system is making sure our health-care employees are equipped to take care of our number one priority, our patients,” says Dupuis.

Meeting demand keeps health-care employees safe

“Across the board, we’ve seen isolation gown usage increase since the pandemic started, sometimes by double or by triple at certain sites,” says Jennifer Fetch, 3sHealth’s Director of Provincial Linen Services.

Some of the changes that require more gowns include COVID-19 testing sites, staff screening protocols, enhanced PPE procedures, and managing outbreaks.

“Increased demand is a good thing in the sense that it means health-care employees are wearing the gowns to protect themselves. That’s what the equipment is there for,” says Fetch. “We are better able to track needed demand and modify the supply of PPE thanks to a centralized linen system within a single provincial health authority.”

With guidance from the PPE Pivot Group, the SHA, 3sHealth, and K-Bro Linen Systems are now working to ensure there is enough PPE and supplies for whatever else the future may hold.

The PPE Pivot Group arose from the need to respond quickly to the emerging challenges and demands on PPE from the COVID-19 pandemic. The group aims to ensure COVID-19 readiness. It is made up of representatives from across the Saskatchewan health-care system and reports to the Pandemic Safety Task Force.

“We are always striving to be ready and to be many steps ahead,” says Fetch.

Good practices to thank for overall system readiness

As always, the good practices health-care employees carry out related to PPE are crucial to overall system readiness. Thank you to all health-care employees using the gowns for following PPE protocol. Returning soiled isolation gowns for processing in a timely manner ensures that they will be clean and back in circulation for fellow health-care employees as soon as possible.

The majority of the gowns health-care employees have worn to protect themselves are the washable, reusable kind. This version is more sustainable, more environmentally-friendly, and helps ensure system capacity for when health-care employees need the gowns.

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