When a Yuma manufacturer heard about the shortage of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, it shifted gears in an effort to help fill the need in the local hospital.

Jordan Manufacturing, a family owned and operated business headquartered in Monticello, Indiana, with a plant in Yuma, makes patio cushions and umbrellas and outdoor furniture. But, in a two-week period, it switched from making outdoor furniture to producing isolation gowns for Yuma Regional Medical Center. 

The company approached the hospital and offered to make disposal gowns. After YRMC officials expressed interest, Jordan came up with a prototype made out of the colorful fabric that usually covers patio pillows. The hospital’s executive leadership team reviewed the prototype and suggested tweaks, and the company eventually came up with a good prototype.

YRMC ordered 3,500 disposable isolation gowns, and within two weeks, Jordan Manufacturing had shifted production to create the much-needed protective gear for frontline healthcare workers.

YRMC expressed “sincere gratitude” to Jordan for its “innovative approach and willingness to make a dramatic impact on the health of our community.” The onset of COVID-19 created an international shortage of personal protective equipment, commonly called PPE, which includes disposable gowns, for healthcare providers. Hospitals across the country are struggling to find critical supplies to meet the demand amid the virus spread.

Sean Hazlett, director of supply chain, explained that the hospital had proactively prepared for the flu season by stocking up on PPE but knew that a global pandemic meant that YRMC would have to find other supply sources to ensure sufficient inventory.

Facing a potential shortage of these PPE supplies, YRMC supply chain staff members spent hundreds of hours proactively sourcing the critically needed supplies to protect patients and staff.

“With national shortages, it was very important for us to make sure we not only had an immediate supply but a continuing supply of isolation gowns,” noted Dr. Trudie Milner, vice president of operations.

Then the local manufacturing plant stepped up to be a part of the solution. Fueled by a desire to help the community during the pandemic, the company looked for innovative ways to contribute to the greater good. 

“Jordan has been a great partner, meaning that they came up with prototypes and just their willingness to, first of all, create something that met the clinical standards. Based on continual feedback, they offered some alternatives,” Milner explained.

The local production site developed multiple prototypes of disposable gowns. The most important factor was the fabric, which had to be impervious to any fluid. The gown had to have ties and fasteners in the back, and the sleeves had to be made so that they could be removed without spreading contaminants.

The final design also had to be tweaked so it could be mass produced at a lower cost.

YRMC officials were grateful for Jordan’s willingness to be open to suggestions. The final product not only fills an immediate need but offers the hospital a sustained source of gowns.

“We really appreciate the collaboration,” Hazlett said.

“We sincerely appreciate that initiative on their part,” Milner added. 

She also pointed out that the nation’s healthcare system for the most part relies on international sources for products, and she believes that needs to change.

“What we learned and are learning is how vital it is to be able to source within our nation but also the incredible power of local relationships. In a sentence, never underestimate the value of local relationships,” Milner said.

Sean Wright, Jordan’s sales executive, said that the idea to reach out to YRMC started out with the Indiana governor asking for help from the community with the production of hospital gowns and masks.

“We saw that this was something we could step up with and help in this time of need,” Wright said. “The position we’re in with our business, with sewing outdoor cushions, we thought we had the equipment and manpower lined up to reach out and help supply these products.”

Jordan started to reprogram their machines to make masks and gowns, and within a few days, the company sent samples to local hospitals, including YRMC, for approval.

It’s also been a way to keep the factory open and employees working.

“It’s been an eye-opening experience for us,” Wright said. “It’s made us feel really proud as a company for what we have been able to do. We’re looking at what we can do in the future to keep helping out with the local hospitals and nursing homes, first responders, whatever it might be, because after all this is set and done, there will still be a lot of need.

“We’re not looking at this as being just a short-term relationship during the coronavirus. We want to build long-term relationships,” Wright added.

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