Distilleries Are Producing Hand Sanitizer

Dr. Neil Ramsay is an anesthesiologist who sits on a committee for Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). In March, they were facing a major dilemma: Dr. Ramsey and his colleagues were trying to figure out a solution to address the incredible rising need for hand sanitizer. A distributor on the committee was warning them of the impending scarcity, and concerns grew that the hospital would run out before the end of the month.

Dr. Ramsay began to ponder about a solution for his hospital. He had heard that many small businesses were making products they usually didn’t sell during the COVID-19 pandemic to aid healthcare workers and the public. He decided to reach out to his friend Chris Nelson, who was an investor in Shelter Point Spirits. Nelson and his wife generously donated $25,000 immediately to a local distillery to kickstart the process of making hand sanitizer.

Distilleries are producing hand sanitizer
Chris Nelson, right, the owner of Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino and an investor in the Shelter Point Distillery on Vancouver Island, delivers hand sanitizer to VGH anesthesiologist Dr. Neil Ramsay. Image credit: Arlen Redekop / PNG

Within 48 hours of speaking with Chris Nelson, the Campbell River Distillery delivered the hand sanitizer to VGH. Dr. Ramsay confirms that it distinguishes itself from other hand sanitizers with its strong boozy scent: “When it first arrived, I saw people sniffing their hands and laughing. It smells like whiskey!” Donations of hand sanitizer continued to make their way to the Salvation Army on the Eastside and another hospital, Victoria General.

Many British Columbia based businesses are changing their products and services to help navigate the current pandemic, and Dr. Ramsay doesn’t plan to stop utilizing them. In addition to distilleries producing hand sanitizer, Dr. Ramsay has found a company that is producing nearly 90,000 isolation gowns. This company is Mustang Survival in Burnaby and their typical specialty is marine survival gear. Dr. Ramsay reached out to them about developing a particular water-resistant, breathable hood for doctors to wear while intubating patients.

distilleries are producing hand sanitizer
VGH anesthesiologist Dr. Neil Ramsay wearing the prototype of a hood designed by Burnaby-based Mustang Survival to keep spittle from COVID patients off doctors necks and faces. Image credit Arlen Redekop / PNG

This is an especially important piece of equipment, as intubating patients can cause workers to be covered in spittle. They created a prototype for Dr. Ramsay, and he soon hopes 100s of the hoods will be handed out to his hospital and others that are expressing interest for the extra protection. “…just gives us extra confidence,” Ramsay said gratefully, “I just want to thank people for all the help.”

Around the world, it’s no different. Thousands of distilleries are producing hand sanitizer in the United States for businesses and hospitals. Multiple private services are coming together to produce PPE for healthcare workers—even 3-D printing the PPE. The desire to help our medical personnel is so widespread that nearly every Etsy account owned by someone who can sew features a wide selection of cloth masks. It goes to show that even in such harsh and uncertain times, lots of individuals come together voluntarily to offer their services and knowledge, allowing us to move forward.

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