The COVID-19 pandemic saw a severe shortage of hospital supplies, including personal protective equipment essential to the health and safety of hospital workers. To help reinforce supplies of PPE, particularly isolation gowns, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Darin Wiggins, MD, vice chair of the hospital emergency department, collaborated with Ken Wright, chairman of the Southampton Hospital Association and head of a local construction company, to design and produce isolation gowns.
The team created several prototypes of a protective gown and hit upon one that would meet the needs of the hospital’s healthcare workers. That was the first step in an innovative campaign designed to produce 10,000 isolation gowns in about two weeks. To piece and assemble the gowns, Wright sought the help of a network of more than 100 volunteers as well as longtime business associates, Michael Reilly and Ben Edwards of Reilly Architectural, a division of Pella Corporation; Tracy Kappennberg of Riverhead Building Supplies; and Leonard Skuggevik, Tuckahoe School Superintendent.
Riverhead Building Supply donated 300,000 sq. ft. of 2ml polyethylene (almost eight acres of material) along with ten miles of tape. Since Reilly Architectural’s operations were suspended in compliance with state regulations, several members of its staff volunteered on rotating schedules to cut the gowns in their Calverton plant. In less than a week, they had received the donated materials, programmed equipment to cut thousands of blanks and began cutting the gowns. The gown blanks were delivered for temporary storage at the Tuckahoe School.
From there, 100 volunteer crewmembers packed 50 gowns in each bin, along with tape and instructions, in preparation for pickup at the school. A team of seven drivers delivered the bins to a network of volunteer assemblers working from their homes. These in-home assemblers constructed each isolation gown. Once a bin of 50 gowns was completed, a driver picked it up and dropped off a fresh bin for assembly. Then, the bagged isolation gowns were stored at Tuckahoe until distribution to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, as needed. The gowns were sanitized before being distributed to staff.
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