Back to work protecting healthcare colleagues

Furloughed workers produce protective equipment
Posted at 4:16 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 17:23:34-04

RANDALLSTOWN, Md. — Converting an empty floor of office space into a factory took a matter of days, and it’s taken time for workers, like Michele Fowble, to set aside their specialties to become seamstresses.

“Absolutely no sewing skills at all,” said Fowble. “I’m an ophthalmic technician so I’m the person that gets to take you back and say, ‘Is this better 1 or 2 with eyeglasses?”

Tucked away on the second floor of a building at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown, three dozen workers, many of them furloughed from their regular jobs, are now manufacturing personal protective equipment for their LifeBridge Health colleagues.

“Being on the front lines, and we know that this northwest corridor of Baltimore County is one of our hardest hit so it’s been really encouraging to see how people are leading here by example,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski as he toured the facility on Wednesday.

Putting in four eight-hour shifts per week, workers at the makeshift factory are already making a difference.

“Over 200,000 of these masks have been made here, probably close to 20,000 of the gowns that you see in the area,” said LifeBridge Health Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Daniel Durand.

But between all of its various hospitals and healthcare facilities, LifeBridge doctors, nurses and staff burn through 6,000 gowns per day and as many as 10,000 face shields.

“I said I was never going to be a fast sewer, and they taught me how to sew fast,” said one supervisor as she instructed one of the seamstresses.

Fast, because the items are in critical need and their co-workers’ lives may depend on them.

“The last time I sewed was in eighth grade… middle school. Again, that’s going to be a long time ago, but I was eager to learn,” said Fowble. “Unfortunately, PPE is hard to come by, and I think it’s awesome we’re all able to kind of chip in and help out our co-corkers.”