Northern Ireland news

Mournes businesses convert raw materials into PPE for health workers

Items donated to staff in the Belfast Health Trust
Ryan McAleer

BUSINESSES in the Mournes area of Co Down are working to donate, manufacture and convert raw materials into personal protection equipment (PPE) for health workers battling Covid-19.

Some 1,500 masks have already been donated, along with 10,500 metres of material, enough for 3,500 sets of scrubs. Kilkeel Chamber of Commerce will this week donate a further 5,000 masks.

The south Down collective includes Sea Source, Collins Aerospace, Kilkeel Seafood, Heartbeat NI and Campbell Snowflake Girls.

Chris Wallace of Kilkeel-based Bedwin Soft Furnishings is helping drive the initiative, with help from Angeline Murphy, who appeared on BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee in 2016. Ms Murphy has been using her sewing skills to make PPE around the clock with other local businesses.

Mr Wallace said he get involved after his son was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy at just six months.

“My wife and I were at Great Ormond Street Hospital with Charlie when Covid-19 really entered the public consciousness. Our priority was to get home and get safe, however, as soon as we arrived home, stories about the lack of PPE available to the NHS really concerned me. Fortunately, working in the textiles business, I felt I was well positioned to help.”

The businessman said he has been inundated with requests for scrubs, masks and other materials.

To date, the group has delivered items to Belfast Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry. In addition to PPE, Smyth’s Toys donated 800 Easter eggs to boost staff morale.

The business collective has now called on firms and households from around the north to donate items which can be converted into much needed PPE.

“We are calling any available stitchers or sewers to join the effort,” said Mr Wallace.

“People can contact me directly or message the ‘NI Scrubs’ Facebook page which is doing a lot of the co-ordinating to make sure materials get to the right places. We’re hugely grateful local volunteers who are currently sewing, but we need more to properly support the NHS.”

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