Volunteers heed calls for masks

Linn Ann Huntington
Special to the Hays Daily News
Janeen Brown of WaKeeney says the face masks she has made with school logos, such as these featuring Kansas State, have been popular with her two children and four grandchildren.

After HaysMed issued new regulations on May 27 requiring that all patients and visitors wear face masks, the chaplain’s office appealed to local churches to ask members making cloth face masks to donate them to the hospital.

These masks are for use by visitors, out-patients and “staff members not involved with direct patient care,” said Carol Groen, manager of Hospital Accreditations and the Stroke Program.

Since then, the hospital has received between 6,000 and 7,000 donated masks, said Gayla Wichman, marketing and rural health director.

The directive requires all persons in the hospital to wear a mask at all times throughout the facility except when they are eating in the cafeteria. This includes patients, staff and visitors.

The directive states in part: “This change aligns with both state and local guidelines in requiring all individuals to wear a mask in public. Simple acts such as breathing, talking, sneezing and coughing are all ways the (COVID-19) virus can spread.”

The new directive asks that visitors and patients bring their own masks. “However, if you do not have one, you will be provided one when you enter our facilities,” it adds.

The Rev. Dr. Karen Harvester, director of Pastoral Care, said in an email, “We want to give them to visitors who come with patients, if they do not already have one, and to out-patients who come for repeated services like physical therapy, dressing changes, cancer center, etc.”

Wichman said the hospital distributes 250 to 300 masks per week and still needs donated cloth masks, especially smaller ones for children.

Janeen Brown of WaKeeney said she heard about the need from the Rev. Jon Anderson, her pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in WaKeeney. She has donated 30 masks to the hospital so far.

Brown said she began making masks in February when her daughter, Erin, a home health worker in Paducah, Ky., asked her mother to make masks for her and her co-workers. The hospital she worked for was using what face masks it had for in-hospital personnel.

Brown said she immediately set to work making cloth masks using a pattern from a website her daughter referred her to. “It was something I could do in the early stages (of the COVID-19 pandemic), something I could do to help,” she said.

Since then, Brown estimated she has made and donated between 280 and 300 face masks. She said the women’s group at her church has made masks for Trego County-Lemke Memorial Hospital in WaKeeney, and Brown has also donated masks to some of the teachers in the USD 208 WaKeeney public schools. Brown herself is a retired elementary teacher.

Sister Loretta Flax, who works part-time as a chaplain at HaysMed, has also made and donated face masks to HaysMed and other facilities. Flax, who used to do upholstery work, said people have donated material for her to use.

She initially did not have a face mask pattern, so she turned to YouTube and found instructional videos. She said it takes her about 15 minutes to make one mask. She has donated a dozen and a half to HaysMed, another dozen to a facility in Kansas City, and has more on order from a domestic violence center in Salina.

“This is my part helping people out,” said Flax, who is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Concordia. Flax also works with Hospice at HaysMed, with Senior Companions, and with homebound individuals in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.

Wichman said, “We are always welcoming pediatric and adult face masks. At this time, pediatric masks would be the most in need.”

She referred people to the following website for instructions: https://www.deaconess.com/How-to-make-a-Face-Mask. The hospital needs 6 x 9-inch masks for adults, with 7 inches of elastic, and 5 x 7-inch masks for children, with 5 inches of elastic, Wichman said.

Groen said those wishing to donate the cloth masks may do so at one of the screening stations in the Miller Medical Pavilion or the emergency room. Those wanting more information may call Groen at 785-623-6569.

Sister Loretta Flax of Hays makes two different types of cloth masks, one with ties (on the left) and ones with elastic.