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Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cut Bank and Pondera Medical Center in Conard are among the more than 40 critical care facilities in Montana that received reusable isolation gowns made by SIMMS Fishing Products. Brianne Bell, RN, models one of eight gowns received by NRMC last week. The gowns were made from material donated by Mervin Manufacturing.

The Montana Hospital Association (MHA) and Simms Fishing Products are teaming up to get needed personal protective gear into the hands of frontline health-care workers in the state’s most vulnerable areas: rural, older communities.

SIMMS has manufactured 400 reusable isolation gowns using technical two-layer and three-layer waterproof, breathable fabric, donated by Mervin Manufacturing, that meets the requirements agreed upon with hospital officials. SIMMS is donating the gowns to MHA. MHA, through a grant from the Montana Bioscience Cluster 4th F Fund, has shipped the gowns to more than 40 critical access hospitals across the state, including Northern Rockies Medical Center (NRMC) in Cut Bank and Pondera Medical Center (PMC) in Conrad.

NRMC received eight gowns at no charge. PMC purchased three of the gowns for $45 each. Marias Medical Center did not receive any gowns, said Tressa Tokerud-Keller, MMC Compliance Officer.

“While Montana has had a successful public health response to COVID-19 to date, we are not out of the woods yet,” said Rich Rasmussen, president and CEO of the Montana Hospital Association. “Until we have a vaccine, the testing capacity we need, and contact tracing infrastructure to contain future cases, Montana must remain vigilant. Montana hospitals will not rest, but will continue to shore up our preparation for the next lightning strike of cases to hit our state.”

Due to their size and low volume of orders during typical, non-pandemic times, Montana’s rural hospitals have faced heightened challenges acquiring personal protective equipment. Hospitals have addressed global supply chain shortages through cooperative in-state arrangements, aggressive group purchasing, coordination with the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force and emergency management personnel, as well as by working with local manufacturers to pivot production toward needed medical equipment.

“Through our connections at the State level, we learned about the need for PPE in our rural communities,” said Diane Bristol, SIMMS Sr. Director of Employee & Community Engagement. “Montanans are resourceful and want to help our neighbors. With the donation of fabric from Mervin Manufacturing, we are able to support these communities and the folks on the front line.”

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