WICHITA -- When the COVID-19 pandemic caused an international shortage of personal protective equipment, Ascension Via Christi began looking for local sources to make sure that its hospitals had what they needed to keep patients and caregivers safe.


Now it is helping to ensure the safety of rural caregivers as well with a gift of nearly 900 face shields manufactured by SpiritAerosystems to Ascension Via Christi's three sponsored critical access hospital networks and a few other rural hospitals.


That donation, made possible by a $45,000 gift from Spirit to the Via Christi Foundation, included:


● 480 to nine of the 10 hospitals that make up the Wheat Plains Health Network, sponsored by Ascension Via Christi St Francis, and Kansas Alliance for Sustainable Health. That group includes Patterson Health Center in Anthony, Sumner Co. District #1 Hospital in Caldwell, Greenwood County Hospital in Eureka, Hillsboro Hospital, Kingman Community Hospital, Kiowa District Healthcare, St Luke Hospital in Marion, William Newton Hospital in Winfield, and South Central Kansas Regional Medical Center in Arkansas City.


● 380 to the four hospitals that make up the Flint Hills Regional Health Network sponsored by Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan and a few nearby critical access hospital partners. Those hospitals include Clay County Medical Center in Clay Center, Community Memorial Healthcare in Marysville, Wamego Health Center, Washington County Hospital, Memorial Health System in Abilene, Morris County Hospital in Council Grove and Hanover Hospital.


● 30 to Girard Medical Center, which is sponsored by Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg.


"At a time when it is difficult for small hospitals to find PPE, Ascension Via Christi has provided some much needed help," says Sandra Dickerson, CEO, Greenwood County Hospital in Eureka. "Protecting our front-line staff is a top priority for our hospital and the face shields provided to us by Via Christi will ensure that they have required protective equipment when needed. We are grateful to Via Christi for the gift of these face shields and can't thank the hospital enough."


Shannan Flach, CEO, Kingman Community Hospital, agreed, noting her hospital's great working relationship with Via Christi.


"They support the rural hospitals in many different ways, but we are truly appreciative in times like these," Flach says. "We do not have the resources that Ascension Via Christi may have, and they take the extra step to reach out to us and help in any way needed."


Dee Dee Dewell, outreach specialist for Ascension Via Christi, says most of the credit goes to David Alexander, president of the Via Christi Foundation; Spirit for its donation and collaboration with Via Christi caregivers in the face shields' design; and Textron Aviation, which helped in the manufacturing process.


"As a result of their innovation and generosity, we had this important PPE to share with our critical access hospital partners, which is a great feeling," says Dewell. "We truly are stronger together!"