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The healthcare workers on the COVID-19 units at Edward Hospital in Naperville and Elmhurst Hospital got a high-fashion boost this year when a renowned designer created isolation gowns for them to wear during a shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment).
Mac Duggal, known for creating special occasion gowns, shifted focus to medical isolation gowns after he was contacted by Edward-Elmhurst Health CEO Mary Lou Mastro.
“We were running out of isolation gowns,” Mastro says. “I was starting to panic. I cold called (Duggal) and said, ‘You’ve never met me, but our sons know each other. I always thought I’d call you some day to make my mother of the groom dress, but we’re running out of isolation gowns so is there any way you can create some?’”
Duggal said he would do whatever he could to help healthcare workers.
Courtesy of Mac Duggal
“Lou was highly engaged in our efforts to find unconventional or alternative sources of products,” says Matthew Hess, system director of supply chain for Edward-Elmhurst Health.
The hospital system typically purchases and uses about 50,000 isolation gowns per month, Hess says. When COVID-19 hit, Edward-Elmhurst Health used its monthly quantity of gowns in a single week.
Because isolation gowns were placed on allocation by their manufacturer, the health system was unable to purchase quantities in excess of its baseline utilization, leaving it with a sizeable shortfall to address. This led system staff to look at purchasing isolation gowns from alternate sources.
“As soon as (Mastro) approached us about it, we did a lot of research to make sure it was a high-quality product and very effective to keep people safe,” Duggal says. “When you have a good product by your side, you can focus on your job.”
Amidst a shortage of material and high demand, Duggal searched for the best non-woven material to use for the gowns, which must be impenetrable by liquid and strong enough to resist tears.
“It took a little while to find good fabric, but my whole team went to work,” Duggal says. “We knew we had no choice, because this was needed fast.”
Trade was also a problem — flights were cancelled, ships weren’t being loaded. Duggal found space on a ship and had his gowns shipped to the United States from China.
“We swapped out evening gowns and put the gowns for Edward-Elmhurst Health on it,” Duggal says. “That had to take precedence over everything else.”
Edward-Elmhurst Health purchased 400,000 Mac Duggal gowns that arrived in five semi-trucks in August 2020. At the time, the hospitals were going through 50,000 isolation gowns per week.
“At the time, we had a supply crisis situation with isolation gowns,” says Mary Anderson, manager of infection control at Edward Hospital. “There just weren’t enough available anywhere in the world to meet the needs of healthcare facilities. It was a very desperate hour.”
Every time a healthcare worker enters the room of a patient with a COVID-19 infection, they put on a new gown and dispose of it after they leave the room.
“Some of our COVID patients are really sick, so the nurse might be in and out of the room every few minutes. And every time they put on a new gown and throw it away,” Anderson says. “And it’s not just the nurse and the doctor that go in the room. It’s respiratory therapy and physical therapy, and lab to draw blood and radiology to do X-rays.”
The Mac Duggal gowns are high-quality and include features suggested by Anderson and her colleagues — elastic and thumb loops at the wrists, Velcro at the neck, a belt that allows someone to put the gown on and fasten it without help from someone else. The fabric is also impermeable but also breathable so they’re comfortable.
“They’ve been a pleasure to work with,” Hess says. “Both Mac and his son, Yuvraj, just two individuals who genuinely care. It never felt like they did this just for business. They were very responsive, very committed to wanting to help Edward-Elmhurst.”
“I really feel humbled,” Duggal says. “We are happy that we were able to provide a good service. Together we stand.”
At Edward-Elmhurst Health, your safety and well-being continue to remain our top priority. Learn more about our Safety Commitment.
For updates on our planning and response efforts as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19, please check EEHealth.org/coronavirus.
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