Premier, 34 systems partner with global medical manufacturer to create domestic gown maker

Premier and 34 health systems including AdventHealth and Henry Ford Health System partnered with global medical manufacturer DeRoyal to create a new joint venture dedicated to the production of isolation gowns.

The partnership, announced Monday, is the latest effort by health improvement company Premier and health systems to invest in the domestic production of personal protective equipment (PPE) as a heavy reliance on foreign manufacturers has caused massive delays. Other health systems joining the venture include the University of Virginia Medical Center, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Atrium Health and Baptist Health.

“In following this approach, we are protecting providers from shortages, injecting more competition into the market and expanding the [group purchasing organization] portfolio with new domestic and geographically diverse options,” said Premier President Michael J. Alkire in a statement Monday.

Premier said it can take 90 to 120 days for foreign-made products to reach the U.S., depending on the country of origin and transportation options.

“As a result, approximately 74% of U.S. hospitals reported they were unable to source adequate quantities of isolation gowns in the month of April, a problem that has continued as COVID-19 continues to spread,” the company said in a release.

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Premier and 15 health systems previously bought a stake in domestic PPE manufacturer Prestige Ameritech with the same goal of shifting the supply chain. As a result of the investment, the manufacturer is making 3.5 million additional N95 masks per month.

But hospital systems have been having trouble not just getting N95 masks. A recent survey of Premier members found that 40% had problems finding exam gloves compared with 28% for N95 masks and 10% for gowns.

The announcement comes less than a week after a report from the ECRI that found more than 50% of the gowns it analyzed did not meet industry protection standards.

Premier expects the first gowns to be available by the middle of next year.

“Our intent is to leverage automation to remain price competitive for the long term,” said Brian DeBusk, CEO of DeRoyal, in a statement.