When Tanner Health System needed to quickly augment its inventory of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the anticipated surge of COVID-19 patients, the system found a solution close to home.

Omni Apparel — just blocks from the system’s flagship hospital in Carrollton — and Tanner quickly aligned on production of an initial order of 4,000 washable hospital gowns for Tanner team members to wear as they care for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.

Thanks to the hard work of the staff at Omni, production on that order shipped within the week. The pandemic-born partnership will likely lead to more work together in the future, both organizations agree.

Omni Apparel is now assisting other hospitals in Georgia and Alabama.

As widely reported, PPE is a critical commodity for the health care industry — and hospital systems globally have reported shortages during this pandemic. The gowns being made by Omni Apparel, along with other protective gear such as face masks, goggles and gloves, provide protection from COVID-19 disease spread, which occurs primarily through respiratory particles from sneezes, coughs and even normal conversation.

Health care workers are at high risk for contracting COVID-19 because of their proximity and prolonged exposure to sick patients.

“Because COVID-19 is highly contagious, PPE changes are frequent. We saw an immediate and significant impact on our supplies during the initial days of the pandemic. These washable gowns will ensure our patients and team members are protected, and we can conserve our resources for the duration — which is still unknown,” noted Missie Robertson, RN, vice president of Institutional Performance for Tanner.

Tanner was pleased to identify a new local source, and the new business was welcome news to Omni Apparel founder Brenda Horsley and her existing team of seamstresses. At a time when many small businesses have had to furlough workers, Omni Apparel is operating at full production capacity. Plus, Horsley’s sister-in-law, Becky Deese, volunteered her time to support the effort.

“Our Omni Apparel team is honored to produce these gowns for Tanner and its heroes on the front lines. This is our opportunity to make a difference for Tanner health care workers and our neighbors and friends who face this disease. This is personal for us, and we bless each shipment with a prayer before it leaves our facility,” Horsley said.

Omni Apparel was founded by Horsley 28 years ago with three sewing machines in her garage. She began with production of butcher coats for the meat and poultry industry and diversified through the years with business aprons, lab coats and embroidery services. The female-owned business, located on Kingsbridge Drive, touts its 100% American-made products made to order with attention to detail and quality.

More information on Tanner’s COVID-19 response is available at tanner.org/ncov.