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Sportswear manufacturer reopens factory to make hospital scrubs

Castlecomer-based IntoSport raised funding to buy HSE-approved materials to make gowns for staff in hospitals across Ireland.

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Seamstresses Tricia O’Keeff (left) and Mary Nash at the IntoSport clothing factory in Castlecomer Co Killkenny (Niall Carson/PA)

Seamstresses Tricia O’Keeff (left) and Mary Nash at the IntoSport clothing factory in Castlecomer Co Killkenny (Niall Carson/PA)

Seamstresses Tricia O’Keeff (left) and Mary Nash at the IntoSport clothing factory in Castlecomer Co Killkenny (Niall Carson/PA)

A Co Kilkenny company reopened its factory where it usually makes sportswear for GAA clubs, to make scrubs and gowns for medical staff.

Castlecomer-based IntoSport raised funding to buy HSE-approved materials to make gowns for staff in hospitals across Ireland.

The family-run business reopened its doors at the end of March and took on another five staff members to meet growing demand for protective equipment for those caring for Covid-19 patients.

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Seamstresses working at the IntoSport clothing factory (Niall Carson/PA)

Seamstresses working at the IntoSport clothing factory (Niall Carson/PA)

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Seamstresses working at the IntoSport clothing factory (Niall Carson/PA)

The local business has been reacting to demand that has seen scrub sets coming off machines and into hospitals within 45 minutes.

Jonny Dowling, managing director of IntoSport, said that scrubs have been handed over to staff still warm from the iron press.

He said: “We were kind of quiet around mid-March so we were holding on and then maybe one week we were off.

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“So we had to decide whether we wanted to stay off or whether we could have a look and see what else we could turn to.

“I suppose we had a chance to see what could be done and we had a factory there that was not going to be used, so we just decided to get a few samples of scrubs from friends of mine who are nurses and doctors

“We saw that all we needed was good quality garments.”

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Nell O’Brien irons the finished product (Niall Carson/PA)

Nell O’Brien irons the finished product (Niall Carson/PA)

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Nell O’Brien irons the finished product (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Dowling has 10 employees, including a graphic designer and sales representatives working from home, with the rest of the team based in the factory.

“We took on another five people just to meet the demand and get up to full speed,” he added.

“Between the gowns and the scrubs, I’d say we have made more than 5,000 pieces.

“They have been going out to hospitals in Monaghan, Kilkenny, Dublin, Cork, the Midlands, Mullingar and Roscommon.

“Everyone really needs it but we can only do so much.

“As soon as something is packed it’s gone, it’s really in short supply.

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Johnny Dowling (left) and Joe Finnegan cut templates of fabric (Niall Carson/PA)

Johnny Dowling (left) and Joe Finnegan cut templates of fabric (Niall Carson/PA)

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Johnny Dowling (left) and Joe Finnegan cut templates of fabric (Niall Carson/PA)

“We are getting inquiries on a daily basis to see if we can make a certain type of garment.

“We’ve had inquiries to see if we can make disposable gowns with hospitals saying they could get us the fabric and asking if we could make it for them.

“Last night we had 40 or 50 sets coming off machines at 4.30pm and we had it to a hospital at 5.15pm.

“We were handing them over and they were still warm off the iron.

“Isolation units are the top priority but we are trying to manage who is in more of a need.”

The company is working at full capacity for another few weeks and is prepared to continue working for another eight weeks.

“At the moment it is hard to tell how long we need to continue making them as we are taking it week on week.

“Maybe now with the lifting of restrictions there could be more of a need for it,” Mr Dowling added.

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