HALIFAX -- Frontline health-care workers fighting the COVID-19 crisis across the country are expected to receive Nova Scotia-made disposable medical gowns as early as next week.

As part of a six-month, $24-million contract with the federal government, Stanfield’s Ltd. of Truro is set to manufacture 2.6 million disposable medical gowns – or about 100,000 gowns per week.

It is part of the federal government’s $2-billion procurement strategy to supply personal protective equipment, diagnostic testing and ventilators.

The company has also signed a 16-week, $4.32-million contract with the Nova Scotia government to manufacture 30,000 gowns per week, with the first shipment expected April 17.

There is an option to extend this contract for another eight weeks to manufacture 240,000 more gowns for Nova Scotia at a cost of $2.16 million, if required.

“The fact that we are able to help healthcare workers not only here in Nova Scotia, but across the country is who we are and have always been as a proud Canadian company,” Jon Stanfield, chair, president and CEO of Stanfield’s Ltd., said in a news release Tuesday.

“We made blankets to keep our troops warm in the First World War, underwear and other base layers in the Second World War and uniforms for our soldiers in Afghanistan. This is quite simply part of our DNA.”

To fill both contracts, most of the company’s 200-employee workforce is being brought back to the Truro manufacturing facility. It was initially forced to close as a result of the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The company recalled more than 70 workers Tuesday, and has a call to the community for workers, hoping to double output within a matter of weeks. The factory will be reset to accommodate 72 people per shift for two shifts.

The federal contract also allows Stanfield’s to contract some of the work outside the province, including sewers from small companies in Toronto, Quebec and rural New Brunswick.

“To be able to bring back most of our employees and provide work to my colleagues across the country is a truly Canadian good news story,” Stanfield added in the release.

“Everyone wants to be able to contribute to this fight and help our healthcare workers.”

To fill these orders, Stanfield’s will have to retool to manufacture the gowns, so the company will be purchasing new equipment at a cost between $500,000 and $800,000.

With the number of cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia increasing daily, and the expectation of more people requiring hospital care, the head of the Nova Scotia Health Authority said in a release that the need for frontline health-care workers to use personal protective equipment will also increase.

“As this pandemic has arrived in Nova Scotia, we have been very heartened to see the community support for our health care staff, including remarkable efforts by local manufacturers such as Stanfield’s to quickly shift their focus to produce critical equipment to support the care of those most affected,” said Dr. Brendan Carr, president and CEO of the NSHA.

“This innovation and community-mindedness will help see us through these difficult times.”

The Health Canada-approved material used for the gowns is produced by another Truro company, Intertape Polymer.

The Stanfield’s factory has been in Truro since the 1870s.

Prior to the pandemic, it made everything from men and women’s T-shirts, to basic layers, fleece toques and hoodies.

Speaking from Ottawa, Canada’s federal industry minister said innovative solutions are key to manufacturing, singling out companies like Stanfield’s.

“It turns out some materials used for construction, house wrap and car airbags can be repurposed for medical-grade gowns,” Navdeep Bains said during a daily update of cabinet ministers.

“To leverage this Canadian innovation, linking up with producers of these materials with apparel manufacturers like Stanfield’s and Canada Goose, among others, to produce millions of gowns made with newly-sourced, made-in-Canada fabrics.”