VICTORIA -- A pulp mill in Nanaimo is doubling down on the production of medical-grade pulp to make medical equipment, such as masks and gowns.

Harmac Pacific says that it is pivoting much of its operations into producing the refined pulp, made from Western redcedar chips, that goes into hospital bedding, gowns, face masks, caps and other medical supplies.

“We’re making a product that goes into medical supplies and we thought, ‘We’re going to do our part in this fight,’” said Harmac president Levi Sampson.

Sampson says that one of the mill’s clients, which makes hospital gowns and medical supplies, asked Harmac if they were able to double their production for their next order.

“When they doubled that order we thought, ‘We’re going to make sure we’re able to meet that demand,’” said Sampson. “So, we decided to stay working.”

Sampson says that the pulp mill is doing everything it can to ensure the safety of its workers, including proper physical distancing and regular disinfecting of workspaces and washrooms.

“Anybody that’s not familiar with a pulp mill, they are giant facilities,” he said. “We actually sit on 250 acres of land, so our workers are really able to spread out while still being able to work safely.”

Sampson says that while overall production volume hasn’t increased, Harmac has shifted its focus so that the majority of work being done is on pulp used in medical supplies.

“I don’t think our employees have ever been prouder than they are today to make something that is contributing directly to this fight against COVID-19,” he said.