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Mental Health Service Training Centres come to the rescue in the frontline battle against COVID-19

Gabriel Glynn, A/Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer, HSE West in receipt of modified gowns from Andy McDonnell, Training Centre Manager, Roscommon Mental Health Services, Community Healthcare West.

Gabriel Glynn, A/Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer, HSE West in receipt of modified gowns from Andy McDonnell, Training Centre Manager, Roscommon Mental Health Services, Community Healthcare West.

Three HSE Mental Health Service Training Centres across Co Roscommon came to the rescue to modify unsuitable PPE so it could be used in the frontline battle against COVID-19.

Surgical gowns received as part of a HSE consignment of PPE from China were modified by eight training centre Instructors, for use by the National Ambulance Service (NAS). They had to be modified because the sleeves of the gowns were too short to provide the required protection to healthcare workers on the front line, potentially putting them at risk of infection.

Gabriel Glynn, A/Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer, HSE West, had a conversation with a colleague after he realised a template could be built and used to extend the length of the sleeve, thus providing the necessary protection for frontline workers. 

Michelle Egan, Business Manager Galway Roscommon Mental Health Services, knowing that training centres had access to sewing machines, contacted colleagues to see if there was capacity and expertise to help.  It turns out there was capacity, expertise and an extraordinary willingness to help.

Anna Maye, one of the instructors, said “I feel I am doing something out of the ordinary in an extraordinary time and it gives me great pride.” 

Arrangements were made to have a small batch of gowns sent to the instructors. The final samples were checked and verified as safe and secure.  Once they were approved, the teams were good to go. This all happened over a few days.

On a weekly basis Andy McDonnell, Training Centre Manager, distributes the gowns he receives from Michelle across the three sites, Clorina House Roscommon, Castlerea Training Centre and Boyle Training Centre.

The original template has been replicated and each team work on their own batch. Using the template, one short sleeve gown can produce eight functional long sleeve gowns worked on by Pauline McNamee, Anna Maye, John Bohan, Geraldine Feely and Con Ward who said he feels privileged to be in a position to help during this surreal time by tracing and cutting the fabric. 

The gown then moves to the machinists - Bernadette Mulry, Mary Stack, Joe Healy, and Greg Clark.  They are using sewing machines that have, for the most part, remained unused for a number of years and some required a little bit of TLC from Joe before starting up again. But start up again they did!

Greg, who learned how to use the machine with a little help from colleagues and from watching videos, said he did it because helping support his frontline colleagues was important to his own mental health. 

Mary Stack even brought in her own Overlocker sewing machine to increase capacity, saying, “I’m delighted to be able to do something to help frontline colleagues.”

Once the sleeves of the gowns have been extended they are re-folded, re-packed and returned to Gabriel in NAS for distribution to frontline workers. Since the initial delivery, the team continue to produce approximately 250 useable gowns per week. 

Bernadette Mulry said:

“It’s great to be able to contribute and assist health staff on frontline services. It’s been rewarding to have such a positive experience from something that has caused such upset all over the world” 

The team are committed to continuing the work for as long as they have capacity and the service requires it.  Joe Healy summed it up by saying, “It just goes to show that when you get a group of people together who are willing to pool their talents and resources, almost anything can be achieved.”

Filling his ambulance car with boxes of modified gowns, Gabriel Glynn said to the instructors, “Thanks to all of the training centre instructors in Co Roscommon, this PPE will be used and it is great that it will be used as there is nothing worse to see than disposing of something that doesn’t need to be disposed – all it needed was a small bit of modification and we do appreciate your help in regards to that.  What you are doing is fantastic.”