The generosity of PFNonwovens, an international leader in nonwovens production, the solidarity of many volunteers from the Znojmo region in the Czech Republic and the enthusiasm of a river scouts youth group made it all possible: A huge number of protective garments were delivered to places where they helped to protect people against the Covid-19 virus.
In the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020, medical protective textiles like gowns, drapes and most of all, face masks and medical gowns were in short supply as the demand grew exponentially and the usual sources of such products, countries in Asia but also in Europe closed their borders, safeguarding their own needs.
The Government of the Czech Republic declared a state of emergency and everybody was obliged to use personal protective equipment, but there was not enough to go around. This was an impulse which led to a unique display of human solidarity and resulted in an additional supply of masks and gowns in the region of Znojmo. Today, months later, at the time of a Covid rebound, which has led to restrictions being set in place once again, let us take a look at today’s protagonists, who – by the way – continue to be active and help wherever there is a need.
PFN: The sponsor
Pavlina Kašpárková, IP Specialist at PFNonwovens, recalls: “We heard about the shortage in the supply of face masks and were really astonished. At PFN, we produce a lot of nonwovens fabrics here in Czech Republic, including material suitable for personal protective equipment. We understood that a vast majority of companies converting our nonwovens into protective medical products were not located in the Czech Republic, some not even in Europe. There were no long discussions or deliberations: František Klaška, the Chief Technical Officer of PFN at the time, followed by the Company’s senior management, immediately decided to sponsor proper nonwoven material for use in such products. I would love to name everybody involved, but I was told to be short. People at PFN were flexible in preparing the required material. It was not possible to find a local producer of masks, so we decided to make them ourselves…”
David Gros, Znojmo Scouting chapter (Port NEPTUN Znojmo, river scouts base)
I was approached by Pavlina with an offer to help our region on March 16th. The Scouts organization doesn’t only work with kids, but also connects rovers and alumni scouts, who often volunteer when needed. We have our base, we have people in our organization, and we maintain contact with many others around. I must highlight that the will to cooperate among people was enormous. The next day, PFN provided us with rolls of nonwoven material and starting on Tuesday afternoon, we opened the nonwoven distribution center at our base – Port NEPTUN, providing pieces of nonwoven fabric to anyone, from the locals and non-profit organizations to deputies of regional municipalities, who organized further distribution in their towns.
People were also encouraged to sew enough face masks for themselves and then continue and bring the produced face masks back to be donated to regional health and social care providers. The response was tremendous. Before March had ended, 100 km of nonwoven material were distributed, and more than 5 000 homemade disposable face masks were provided to regional health care providers – like hospital wards, general practitioners, homes for the elderly, etc.
Michaela Trněná, major of Šlapanice
In mid-March, the Czech Government declared a state of emergency and ordered everyone to wear protection of the nose and mouth. For smaller municipalities like ours, it was not possible to buy personal protection equipment on the market for some time. Under normal circumstances, we provide care to the oldest of our residents and suddenly, we were afraid to meet them for fear of their safety. During this situation, we received, free of charge, enough nonwovens from the Znojmo Scouting chapter to provide it to the residents in the greatest need. I am more than grateful for this help. In my eyes it is not only the protective equipment, but also the generous gesture of donating the fabric and allowing people to help themselves and those around them, thus, uniting everybody and casting away panic and distress.
Dr. Dominik Bláha, general practitioner
It was in March of this year and – at once – there were the first Covid patients in our region. As any normal day, many people were supposed to meet their family doctors, but any of them might have been Covid-positive, spreading the infection. Speaking as one of many general practitioners, and I am sure all of us faced the same situation, with the shortage of personal protective equipment, healthy people but especially patients already debilitated by other diseases were at great risk. Thoughts of closing our offices and providing only distance consultations were on table. Our desperate call for help was heard by the Znojmo Scouting chapter: thanks to them and their group of volunteers, we received disposable face masks for our patients, allowing us to provide health care to those in need.
Dr. Kristýna Náhlíková, Anesthetist, Znojmo Hospital
At the hospital, we perfectly knew that the standard procedures for infection prevention require a lot of single-use protective products like gowns and masks. But when we starting using such vast quantities in the care of any one Covid patient, our stock got very low very fast. And, what’s more, we still needed them for all of the “regular” patients. The main objective is to avoid the hospital-acquired infections; they are sometimes deadlier than the coronavirus. The Znojmo Scouting chapter came to our aid and donated a significant number of face masks. But it didn’t stop there. It was the end of March when I approached David at the river scouts base with a humble question: were they also able to produce protective gowns that we were lacking so dramatically? Both the Scouts and PFN were very understanding and, to my surprise, it took less than a week to have the first volunteer-made garments in our hospital. PFN nonwoven experts also instructed us with regards to the possibilities of sterilizing the fabric before use, so we feel safe and can focus on our patients’ needs.
Šárka, a 6-year-old girl scout, witnessed how the volunteers began mass producing the products.
“Our school was closed and I was happy that we had a vacation. But then I realized I had to stay at home; I couldn’t meet my friends and I couldn’t even go to my scout meetings. I was sad and confused. But then my mom explained to me that we can beat the virus by staying home and offered that I can help even more by making face masks with her and my older sister. I’m too small to use our sewing machine, but I cut the textile into squares and folded each one so mom could sew it into a face mask. Later on, mom brought huge pieces of fabric from Port Neptun and she started to sew gowns. She told me that this was for the doctors in the hospital, to keep them healthy. It seemed that only adults could do this, but then I managed to cut the hole for the thumb in the sleeve. “
David Gros, Znojmo Scouting chapter (Port NEPTUN Znojmo, river scouts base)
The request for protective gowns from the hospital was another challenge. PFNonwovens kindly and without any delay provided the suitable fabric. A volunteer task force was established, including doctors, seamstresses together with a PFN nonwovens expert, initiating the process of making the protective gowns. We found out very quickly that we had to provide not the fabric but rather the individual pieces. During the spring, our rovers and older scouts took turns in cutting the nonwoven fabric – sleeves, body and belt separately – and collected them into packages for sewing volunteers. Now in the autumn, our volunteers can use an industrial cutting machine and produce more sewing components in a shorter time.
The demand in our region is tremendous and especially non-state organizations face a lack of protective clothing. Luckily, we also have more helping hands, like employees of closed child care and leisure centers, or even the Znojmo correctional facility is helping us with completing the pieces and sewing the gowns. Still, most gowns are sewn by normal people in their homes.
I would like to acknowledge all volunteers, who have been giving up their free time, cutting, sewing, collecting, distributing and not to forget also talking to people, answering questions and spreading goodwill and a positive mood. Finally, I need to state that without PFNonwovens kicking off this initiative and donating the fabric, none of this would have been possible.
Hana Komendová, Head nurse at the Department of Anesthesiology, Znojmo Hospital
I would like to give a big “thank you” from the entire Department of Anesthesiology at the Znojmo Hospital to everyone involved in producing and donating more than 3 500 face masks and 3 000 disposable protection gowns made from nonwoven textiles, that protect both us and our patients from infection during our everyday care. Huge acknowledgement belongs to all of the volunteers from the Znojmo Scouting chapter, PFNonwovens and all who sewed.
I cannot underestimate this help. We have no direct proof but I’m convinced that this unique display of human solidarity saved lives. We are used to getting professional protective products through normal supply channels. But it is here that we experienced a helping hand from the neighborhood. I’m so, so grateful!
Volunteer gathering Summer 2020
Facts and figures
March – April 2020
• Over 150 people, volunteers without any form of compensation, worked to make it happen
• 1 705 kg of nonwoven textiles was donated by PFNonwovens for this initiative
• Fabric for face masks was distributed to the following municipalities and non-profit organizations: Hluboké Mašůvky, Borotice, Regional Charity of Znojmo, Regional Charity of Třebíč, Chvalovice, Dobšice, Břežany, Home for the Elderly Domov Sv. Antonína Moravské Budějovice, Jakubov u Moravských Budějovic, Šlapanice u Brna, the Znojmo Red Cross, Home for the Eldery in Božice u Znojma, Štěpánovice, Bílovice nad Svitavou, Pavlice, Hostěnice, Prace u Brna, Pozořice, Troubsko, regional diocese of Brno, Ponětovice, Blažovice, Mašovice, Moravský Krumlov, Home for the Eldery in Prostějov, Třebíč Health Centre, Třebíč Hospice, Kanice, Troskotovice
• 13 571 face masks distributed to
o 6 485 hospitals
o 1 000 regional pharmacies, general practitioners and pediatrists
o 3 993 social services, hospices, homes for the elderly
o 934 out-patient clinics
o 1 159 other
• 2 813 protective gowns
o 1 615 hospitals
o 138 regional pharmacies, general practitioners and pediatrists
o 157 social services, hospices, homes for the elderly
o 903 out-patient clinics
• Face masks and protective gowns distributed for example to the Znojmo Hospital, homes for the elderly (Znojmo, Jevišovice, Božice), Znojmo Hospice, fire brigade and ambulance rescue services in Znojmo, police departments (Znojmo, Šumná, Vranov, Hrušovany), etc.
Late-October – November 29th
• 840 kg of nonwoven textiles was donated by PFNonwovens
• Majority of it has been already processed into more than 4.7 thousand protective gowns and distributed to regional health care facilities and providers. For example, 1920 to the Znojmo Hospital, 1710 to ambulance rescue services, 1140 to homes for the elderly and hospices.
• Volunteers continue their meritorious work, providing missing protective equipment to places of need.
Production team: Kristýna Náhlíková (Hospital Znojmo), David Gross (Znojmo Scouting chapter),
Pavlína Kašpárková (PFNonwovens)