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Maternity-supplies partnership weds Pinnacle, workers with disabilities

A new partnership is providing work for people with disabilities while
helping Harrisburg’s PinnacleHealth System save time and money.

A new partnership is providing work for people with disabilities while helping Harrisburg’s PinnacleHealth System save time and money.

Pinnacle has contracted with Lancaster-based Susquehanna Association for the Blind and Vision Impaired to assemble supply kits for new mothers and their families.

The idea has its roots in the hospital’s desire to reduce expenses while providing a safe, clean environment for patients, said Debra Richardson, clinical manager of labor and delivery.

A major part of the latter is disposing of all a room’s unused supplies, which for maternity includes items such as absorbent pads, diapers, and surgical gowns and masks once the patient checks out, she said.

Before the partnership, that meant a few things: one, that waste was occurring, and two, that hospital employees had to gather a variety of fresh supplies for each new maternity patient and her family.

An internal review concluded that a more efficient procedure would be to use prepackaged supply kits.

But nurses didn’t have room to set up an assembly line for the packs, and scant time to make them even if they did, Richardson said.

One solution was to contract with an outside agency that employs people with disabilities, an idea Richardson said she saw in action at the Oregon hospital where she once worked.

A WGAL-TV news segment on the employment program run by the association led Pinnacle to approach the group about making the kits, she said.

Workers in the program also make and package bio-based and environmentally friendly cleansers as well as products for Costco and Bayer HealthCare.

Workers at the nonprofit, known as SABVI, in December began making the kits for Pinnacle at the Alley Center for the Blind in North Lebanon Township. Items include foot-printing kits, surgical masks and gowns, spray bottles and absorbent pads.

The kits will save Pinnacle about $12,000 each year, said Vicky Shorts, nurse manager for labor and delivery. She said she did not yet have the number of kits used in a month, but Richardson estimated 350 to 400 babies are born every month at Pinnacle.

Seven blind and vision-impaired workers assemble the packs under the direction of a sighted supervisor, said SABVI marketing coordinator Lindsay Fauth.

“They do a fantastic job from their end, and it really saves us in cost, both in price and labor on our end,” Richardson said.

The packs’ contents vary by need, such as for standard births, pre-term births, Caesarian Sections, high-risk pregnancies and for family members attending the birth, she said. The biggest kit is about the size of a 1-gallon plastic bag and holds eight to 10 supplies.

“It allows us to keep people employed,” Fauth said of the contract. “We’ve had a hard time, especially over the past year. We have been forced to lay people off.”

One of the people employed as a result of the contract is Sue Zieglar, 59, who has been legally blind since birth.

Zieglar said she knew of SABVI’s employment program for a long time, but was motivated to get a job with the group after her mother became ill, and she no longer had time to provide care and hold down a full-time job.

She now works three days per week at the Alley Center.

“It’s a rewarding place to work,” Zieglar said. “It means a lot that I’m helping to produce something someone needs.”

Other departments at Pinnacle have indicated they might be interested in contracting with SABVI for their own versions of the maternity kits, Richardson said.

“The pride they take in what they do is amazing,” she said of the SABVI workers. “Every single pack is accurate and they can’t see — and yet they do phenomenal job.”


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