Mandy Gowers, owner of Lesley May’s Patchwork and Craft, and Helen Hullah, manager, pictured with scrubs and cloth masks made voluntarily for MBH.

LOCAL sewing enthusiasts are being urged to get behind an effort to make cloth face masks available for visitors to Mildura Base Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wearing face masks is currently optional for hospital visitors under DHHS guidelines, but MBH Director of Intensive Care Dr Alison Walker said it was possible the masks would become compulsory if the situation in Victoria continues to worsen.

“We’re trying to get on the front foot if the situation does change, and it’d be great if there are some more people who have some time, some sewing skills and would like to help out the community,” Dr Walker said.

“Regardless of the departmental guidelines, we’d also like to be able to have face masks available to people if they do feel they’d like to wear one during their visit – if we had a supply of cloth masks available, it would be nice to be able to do that,” she said.

Mandy Gowers, from local business Lesley May’s Patchwork and Craft was among a number of people who began making scrubs for hospital staff when protective garments were in short supply early in the pandemic and Mandy has also made 130 cloth masks for use when required.

Dr Walker said the hospital was well-supplied with Personal Protective Equipment including masks for clinical use, but supplying masks for visitors would be a significant extra drain on resources and would quickly exhaust the available supplies from the existing volunteers.

“Our volunteers have made a terrific contribution, but if the wearing of masks becomes compulsory for visitors, then that will be significant numbers,” Dr Walker said.

There are about 350 visitors a day at the hospital, most visiting patients.