PARTNERSHIP LEADS TO BIG SOLUTIONS IN SMALL PACKAGESCoffee Creek Correctional Facility Adults in Custody find new purpose in creating outfits for preemie babies. Processing their hospital linen since 2009, Oregon Corrections Enterprises (OCE) and Salem Health have developed a true partnership. In 2016, the hospital reached out to OCE to help fill a need.
Salem Health's purchasing unit was unable to locate appropriate hospital clothing for preemie babies assigned to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. NICU Nurses would go to local area stores and purchase the smallest clothing available. The clothing would then be altered to accommodate the tubes and wires assisting their tiny patients. Once the clothing was altered, it could not withstand repeated washings.
Salem Health's Linen Services Supervisor knew OCE had sewing programs and asked if making hospital clothing for preemies was a possibility. The project was routed to the OCE Production Sewing Program at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF). Says Dave Conway, OCE General Manager – CCCF, “OCE is all about helping people overcome challenges. How could we say no?"
Dave purchased the smallest clothing he could find and disassembled it. Then he asked the hospital NICU Nurse Manager what alterations were needed. With that information, the adults in custody (AICs) assigned to the program went to work. They asked Dave for a generic picture of a preemie baby to post on the wall as a reminder of the purpose of the clothing.
Dave's next task was finding the appropriate fabric and supplies to be used on newborns. It was more difficult than anticipated. OCE prefers to purchase from Oregon vendors, but Oregon does not have a fabric mill supplying the type of fabric needed. Eventually, Dave located a vendor in Pennsylvania who offered a solution.
Using old manila folders, the crew began to create patterns. They reduced the patterns but struggled to find the correct sizing. Dave then bought a doll that was the approximate size of the average preemie newborn. Now the crew could use a model to test their patterns. When asked if they could name the doll, Dave told the crew the name had to include the letters “OCE." Oceana became the official model of the new NICU clothing line. Various drafts of the final product were sent to and from the hospital where NICU nurses evaluated and made suggestions. “Can you move this snap over a one-half inch?" “Can you shorten this gown two inches?" The final versions were tested by the hospital for thirty days. Because the garments were specifically designed for NICU use and did not have to be altered, they showed no signs of tattering, despite multiple washings.
Now, two years after the project first began, OCE delivered its initial order of NICU clothing to the hospital. Salem Health arranged for press coverage of the official first delivery. The article, showing a picture of preemie twins wearing the new OCE outfits, was written by Capi Lynn, News Columnist for the Statesman Journal, and appeared on the front page on Christmas Eve Day. The story went viral. The postings led to more requests for articles or feature stories from local television news stations and national websites. Hospitals and manufacturers around the country contacted OCE, wanting to know how to either purchase the product or partner with OCE.
Says the OCE Communications Manager, Barbara Cannard, “Developing a true partnership takes dedication from both sides and can wield amazing results. It is wonderful that the partnership between Salem Health and OCE has led to a solution to an unspoken national need!" THE STORY GOES VIRAL!
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