Salem women make masks for SRMC

Connie Corliss of Salem, front, holds up the first mask made by a community team comprised of herself, Lori Beight, left, and Patty Bica to donate to Salem Regional Medical Center. The hospital asked for the community’s help to make the 3-layer masks as part of the preparation for an expected influx of patients related to the coronavirus pandemic. For details about the masks, visit the hospital website at www.salemregional.com. (Photo provided by Connie Corliss)

SALEM — Two hospital retirees and a furloughed friend joined forces Thursday to answer Salem Regional Medical Center’s call for home-sewn masks. “I just think it’s the least we can do to help the people on the front lines that are trying to save lives,” Salem resident Lori Beight said.

Beight retired a year ago from SRMC where she worked as a registered nurse in the wound care center and the intensive care unit. She saw that the hospital was asking community members to put their sewing skills to good use and contacted Connie Corliss, a retired respiratory therapist from SRMC.

Corliss said Beight knew she was a sewer. She used to mend clothing for people when she worked at the hospital. When asked about making masks, Corliss said “heck yea, we’ll do it.”

Patty Bica, who was laid off from Ventra last week when the plant closed like many other businesses due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), also joined up.

“We have a production line going,” Corliss said.

She sews, Bica cuts the fabric and Beight handles the elastic. Corliss got the materials they would need and they’re following the instructions provided by SRMC on the hospital website. They have enough supplies to make 200 masks.

“Anybody can do this. It’s not hard,” Corliss said.

The hospital issued a press release Wednesday about the opportunity for community members to lend a hand. Sewing instructions to make the special 3-layer surgical mask are available on the SRMC website at www.salemregional.com, by clicking on the COVID-19 link at the top of the home page. Materials needed to sew the masks include polyester fabric, 100% cotton fabric, bias tape or elastic loops and a pipe cleaner (optional).

“To ensure the health and safety of caregivers, only healthy individuals with no one in their household experiencing flu or COVID-19 symptoms should consider donating masks. Please note that all donated masks will be laundered prior to being given to SRMC staff,” the release said.

Sewing instructions for making washable gowns, bouffant caps and shoe covers were being added to the website, too, as the information became available.

The face masks are a form of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Hospitals across the nation are preparing to receive an influx of patients and PPE is so vital to the safety of both patients and staff. As SRMC prepares to receive a surge of patients locally, we are looking at all of the ways we can conserve our PPE so it is available when we face the highest-risk situations. These home-made PPE items can help stretch our supplies as we battle this virus and care for our community,” SRMC President/CEO Anita Hackstedde, M.D. said.

When asked how the hospital would use the masks, Hackstedde responded in a written statement that “the CDC has recommended that hospitals develop a plan for optimizing the supply of facemasks and other PPE to handle a surge of patients. This means that hospitals are directed to have a plan in place to manage a sudden increase in patient volumes that would challenge or exceed capacity, similar to what is currently being experienced in New York City. We are not in a crisis now and are choosing to take a proactive approach as we plan for an influx of patients. In a crisis, homemade facemasks can be used to extend the life of PPE, such as covering an N-95 respirator or used when supplies are depleted.”

Hospitals across the state are all asking residents to sew for them, giving people obeying the stay-at-home order a way to fight the battle while passing the time.

“We just want to help out,” Corliss said.

Bica added, “SRMC reached out and we’re doing what we can.”

Completed face masks can be brought to SRMC’s main lobby in a clearly marked bag or container and placed in SRMC’s donation box for medical supplies, which is immediately inside the door of the lobby. SRMC is accepting donations from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Special drop-off arrangements can also be made by calling Amy Reed, SRMC Foundation, at 330-337-2883.



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