HALIFAX — Nova Scotia-based undergarment manufacturer Stanfield's Ltd., has secured two contracts worth over $28 million to supply the federal and Nova Scotia governments with hundreds of thousands of protective gowns for front-line health-care workers in the fight against COVID-19.
Company CEO Jon Stanfield told reporters Tuesday the $24 million federal contract will see it supply 2.6 million gowns — 100,000 per week — beginning the first part of May and ending the last week of October.
The $4.32 million agreement with Nova Scotia would see 480,000 gowns supplied over a 16-week period, with the first of 30,000 gowns each week to be delivered the week of April 15.
Stanfield said the Truro, N.S., company worked with Health Canada to have the disposable gowns approved over a span of just 10 days.
"This is truly an amazing feat, understanding the complexities of integrating government and private sector business in normal times. But as we all know we are in unprecedented times," he said.
Stanfield said the company worked with emergency room doctors in Truro to hone specifics for the design and fit of the gowns. The material is produced by another Truro company, Intertape Polymer.
Stanfield said his company laid off most of its 200-member workforce on March 16 and would now be able to immediately bring back 72 sewers.
He said there are plans to hire up to 108 people, and more workers could be needed in the future. The factory will be reset to accommodate 72 people per shift for two shifts.
In addition, the federal contract allows Stanfield's to continue to contract some work from outside the province.
"So beyond Truro, we will employ potentially people in New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec as well," Stanfield said. "I don't think it's going to be a challenge to find the people — we just have to give them training as quick as we can so they can hit the output level."
He said there was little retooling required at the factory, although equipment needed to be moved around to get the right physical spacing for workers.
New sewing equipment was also ordered at a cost of between $500,000 and $800,000.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority said in a news release Tuesday that its infection prevention and control team has supported the configuration and standards to be used in the factory during production.
Health authority CEO, Dr. Brendan Carr, said with the number of COVID-19 cases increasing daily in Nova Scotia, there is an expectation that more people will require hospitalization.
Carr said that means the need for front-line health-care workers to use personal protective equipment will also increase.
“We have been very heartened to see the community support for our health-care staff, including remarkable efforts by local manufacturers such as Stanfield’s to quickly shift their focus to produce critical equipment to support the care of those most affected," Carr said.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Tuesday that the province currently has about a month's supply of various forms of personal protective equipment for health workers.
"This (contract) will add on top of that with the ability for us to order more," said McNeil.
The company's contract with the Nova Scotia government has an option for an eight-week extension to manufacture 240,000 more gowns at a cost of $2.16 million.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Stanfield's was among several firms that had received letters of intent to manufacture personal protective equipment.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2020.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press