A crew of 20 state prisoners has tailored hundreds of plastic gowns each day over the past two weeks for Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s staff.
Hall County Correctional Institute Warden Walt Davis said the effort started May 14.
“It came up during the local coronavirus task force meeting that the hospital had this need. … One thing led to another, a couple of phone calls and then one of the representatives from the hospital came down and looked at our area,” Davis said.
After explaining the process to the prison population, the CI’s staff put up a signup sheet in the dorms looking for volunteers.
The single-use isolation gowns are 1-mil plastic that are sealed with heat guns at the seams.
The plastic is cut and folded with the use of a template, with openings made for the neck and sleeves.
“You can make one in a matter of two or three minutes. It doesn’t take long, and once these guys get that process down … we’re making between (600) and 700 a day,” Davis said.
NGMC officials come three times per week to pick up the gowns, which are bundled in groups of 10 in bags and brought back to the hospital.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Davis said the only ongoing inmate work detail was the recycling unit.
The Correctional Institute has now returned to limited details. Though inmates are not going into public buildings, work details such as parks and recreation and road maintenance have resumed.
“We’re limiting the number of inmates on details to three per officer, meaning they can semi-social distance in the crew cab of the truck,”
The 20-inmate crew is set to make gowns through the end of June. When they reach the end of the month, Davis said they will sit down with hospital officials to assess the needs and possibly continue if necessary.
“This is a great opportunity for us to help support the frontline health care workers in our community, and we’ve got plenty of labor here,” he said.
According to a Hall County news release, the hospital uses on average 4,500 gowns per day.
"We are very thankful that our biggest need for personal protective equipment of isolation gowns is being met by volunteers, local churches and now Hall County Corrections," said Matthew Crumpton, emergency preparedness manager at Northeast Georgia Health System, in a Hall County news release. "It provides the needed resources to protect our workforce."