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We’ve got you covered: The Ottawa Hospital now offers bandages for a variety of skin tones

Skin tone bandages

Have you ever wondered why almost all adhesive bandages are peach coloured?

They were originally designed to match white skin. And more than a century later, peach is still the default hue.

But not at The Ottawa Hospital.

To better meet the diverse needs of the community we serve, our hospital now provides all patients with adhesive bandages that complement a variety of skin tones.

As one of the first hospitals in Canada to adopt these inclusive bandages, we hope to inspire other health-care organizations to make this small but important step towards inclusive care.  

The inspiration? A trip to the drug store

It all began when Ellen Odai Alie, the hospital’s Director of Medical Imaging, visited a local drug store. Ellen, a Black woman, found bandages matching her skin tone. When she arrived home and put one on, she got an idea.

“I thought, ‘If these bandages are available at a chain drug store, why can’t they be available at our hospital?’” she recalls. “It may seem like a small thing, but when I put the bandage on, it made me feel valued. For the first time in my life, a bandage matched my skin tone — it was a powerful and emotional moment. What this bandage says is that someone thought about me.”

Ellen Odai Alie and her colleagues wear the new inclusive bandages.
Ellen (right) and her colleagues from across the hospital show off our new inclusive bandages.
Ellen Odai Alie and Julie Clairmont, Director of Supply Chain Operations, pose with the shipment of bandages.
The bandages arrive at our warehouse! To bring these bandages to the hospital, Ellen worked closely with Julie Clairmont (right), the hospital’s Director of Supply Chain Operations. The project was also supported by the hospital’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Council.
Ellen holds three boxes of bandages.
Our new bandages come in three different shades and have been made available through a contract negotiated by Mohawk Medbuy (MMC), a not-for-profit organization that sources high-quality medical supplies, life-saving drugs and important services on behalf of hundreds of Canadian hospitals and health-care providers.

Setting an example for inclusivity

“With The Ottawa Hospital making these bandages available to all our patients, my hope is that many other health-care organizations across Canada are going to do the same,” says Ellen. “As a staff member, it makes me proud that TOH has supported this, and that both patients and staff can see themselves reflected in this initiative. People of colour have long been ignored or excluded from many aspects of health care, including research, to the detriment of our well-being and health outcomes. I see room for research into how these inclusive bandages could enhance the patient experience for people of colour. With consent from our patients, we plan to study the short- and long-term impacts of these bandages.”

“This small act shows me clearly that The Ottawa Hospital cares about me.”

“I am so excited to hear that The Ottawa Hospital has procured skin tone bandages!” applauds Corinne Davison, a patient advisor and member of the hospital’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Council. “I must admit that the little girl inside of me jumped up and down at the thought that I could wear a bandage that was the same colour as me. I was a child when I first moved to Canada and felt confused when I would see the word ‘flesh’ used on crayons or bandages that did not look like my brown skin. This small act shows me clearly that The Ottawa Hospital cares about me. It is a signal that The Ottawa Hospital is a place that is paying attention to the diverse population that it serves.”

A message from The Ottawa Hospital’s leadership team

“The Ottawa Hospital places a strong focus on equity, diversity and inclusion. The introduction of skin tone bandages into our clinical areas, I hope, conveys to our patients that we are considering all aspects of their care, right down to the subtle details,” says Dr. Virginia Roth, The Ottawa Hospital’s Chief of Staff. “That being said, we still have more work to do to break down systemic barriers in health care faced by many members of our community. I and the rest of the hospital’s leadership team look forward to continuing to work with our EDI Council and our patient and family advisors to identify other ways we can meet the needs of our community.”


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