Local company partners with Carris Health to create reusable isolation gowns

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Author: Staff

When Eric Eveslage, Logistics Section Chief with Carris Health’s COVID-19 response team, started looking at options for preserving supplies and personal protection equipment (PPE), all options were on the table. Through a happenstance email, Eveslage was informed of a company wanting to know if they could produce reusable isolation gowns.

KZ Sales, Inc. normally designs and manufactures reusable polypropylene covers for ductwork. The small, locally owned company in Willmar, knew that they had access to fabric and the capacity to cut multiple layers at once, with a network of home-based workers that sew.

Steve Vossen, owner of KZ Sales, Inc., reached out to Carris Health in late March to see if they had a need for gowns. KZ Sales, Inc. would just need a sewing pattern to produce them.

“When we realized KZ Sales’ capabilities, we were happy to supply them with a gown so they could create a prototype and we could begin a new partnership,” said Eveslage.

Once the prototype was created, it was then sent off to CentraCare’s PPE Design and Manufacturing group in St. Cloud. This innovative team vets out all ideas and creations. Not everything gets approved; some have stitching issues, aren’t adequate for infection prevention, or doesn’t hold up after daily use and laundering. The isolation gowns that KZ Sales, Inc. created passed all tests.

Carris Health didn’t waste time placing an order and received their first shipment of 550 gowns on April 10.

“We are very pleased to be able to help during these difficult times,” said Vossen. He stated that the whole project started because his mother lives in a long-term care facility and him and his wife, Julie, were brainstorming ideas of how to keep her safe. “We then reached out to Carris Health because we have friends and family that work there.” From there, the project grew. “While we are still filling our KZ Sales orders, we have allocated a large portion of our labor hours to keeping up with the local need for PPE.”

“Another bonus is the gowns from KZ Sales can be reused over and over through normal laundering care, decreasing our carbon footprint,” explained Eveslage. “Our previous gowns were one-time use only and then we had to throw them away.”

The gowns will be distributed to Carris Health hospitals in Willmar and Redwood Falls first, and then they will begin sending gowns to other CentraCare regional hospitals, including Paynesville.

“This is a neat example of the resources available in our own communities,” said Eveslage. “Because of our local connections, we didn’t have to look at options overseas. We were able to do business and secure needed supplies with a company right here in Willmar.”