- Montreal company George Courey Inc. is supplying hospitals with equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- We spoke to CEO Jeff Courey about his company's work during the crisis.
One Montreal company is stepping up to help out during the COVID-19 pandemic. George Courey Inc. is a 110-year-old Montreal-based family business specializing in the manufacturing and distribution of textile products throughout North America. During this difficult period, its employees have been working extra hard to provide hospitals with all the necessary equipment to keep doctors and nurses protected from the novel coronavirus.
This local company has been doing its part to not only help medical professionals but to keep Montrealers employed.
We spoke with CEO Jeff Courey about his worries, plans, and opinions about this confusing time.
He gave us some insight into the current needs of hospitals in North America and what consumers can do to help maintain the supply of necessary materials.
He also let us know that George Courey Inc. is currently hiring for a variety of positions as demand for its products skyrockets.
What exactly does your company produce?
For healthcare clients (hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, etc.) we make reusable medical products such as patient gowns, scrubs, surgical gowns, isolation gowns, cubicle curtains, sheets, towels, blankets, pillows, underpads, etc.
For hospitality clients (hotels, motels, resorts, gyms, spas, etc.) we make sheets, towels, pillows, duvets, curtains, etc. All products are listed on our website.
Our company has multiple offices across Canada and the United States and both west coast and east coast wholly owned distribution centres — with our head office and main distribution centre being here in Montreal.
When did you first notice that this was going to be a bigger pandemic than what was being predicted?
Since we have a relatively large-scale production network in China, our company started to follow the coronavirus quite closely back in early January but really only from the perspective of "will our Chinese supply chain be affected?"
At that time, China was heading into their New Year celebration, which is around a month of factory closures to allow for workers to travel home to celebrate with their families.
Companies like mine are already accustomed to organizing production and shipping schedules around this closure, so we did not truly start to feel the effect until towards the end of February when we were expecting all factories to come back to full production.
When we started to hear from government clients across Canada and the U.S. that there would be a need to use emergency supplies of isolation gowns on an urgent basis, that’s when I realized that this was going to be a bigger than expected pandemic.
How did your company prepare for this?
Our company currently supplies Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) to hospitals and healthcare laundries across Canada and the U.S., including isolation gowns.
What most people do not realize is that in any given year, flu season causes a major strain on healthcare institutions everywhere and isolation gown deliveries to increase tremendously between February and May in comparison to the rest of the year.
Our company always keeps a large number of isolation gowns in stock, learning the lessons from SARS, H1N1, and other large-scale episodes.
However, that number is typically between 75,000 and 100,000 gowns — as a reserve.
To give a little context, since the beginning of March, we have produced over 500,000 gowns and counting. So basically we have used over five times our regular annual reserves in less than one month, and it’s not over.
How hard has it been trying to keep up with the needs of hospitals?
It has been challenging to keep up with the demand for PPE products. It’s all over the news. There is currently a major shortage for masks, gowns, and other PPE across North America.
What’s important to understand is that there are two types of PPE: disposable and reusable.
A reusable isolation gown lasts for over 100 wash cycles, whereas the disposable products are single-use.
What we are trying to communicate to healthcare professionals is that during this crisis if both the reusable and disposable products have similar lead times, choose the product that will give you 100+ uses instead of just a single-use.
I wrote a LinkedIn post that said: “Let's not solve the crisis of today (COVID-19) by adding to the crisis of tomorrow (climate change). For healthcare textile professionals or anyone else - to the extent that it's still possible: CHOOSE REUSABLE.”
I think it’s an important message for healthcare professionals as well as for the general consumer as they stock up on quarantine supplies.
What have you guys been doing to help hospitals?
Very early on in this pandemic, we decided to have all non-production and non-warehouse staff work from their homes.
It was important for us to divide the company in order to lower the risk of the virus being contracted and spread within our business.
That was important because the best thing that we have been doing to help hospitals is simply to stay open.
Hospitals need the products that we make now more than ever. We have amazingly dedicated people working around the clock to make sure that we can fill all of our orders as quickly as possible.
I’m so proud of our team and all we have been able to accomplish so far.
We have just been designated an Essential Service company by the provincial government, which really highlights the importance of the work that we are doing.
I know that you are hiring people. What kind of employees are you looking for?
Right now, we are looking for experienced cutters, sewers, and general workers who can help us with domestic production and filling orders.
What can locals do to help the situation, is there anything Montrealers can donate or do to help those in need during this time?
I think that the best thing Montrealers can do is to follow the guidelines set by our municipal, provincial, and federal governments.
Be courteous to people and avoid stockpiling supplies when they are not essential. Leave the masks, gloves, and other PPE for the incredible healthcare professionals who are working hard to make sure that we are safe.
GCI is doing everything we can to make sure that our incredible doctors, nurses, and frontline warriors are fully equipped with the right armour to win this war.