Mercy Health — Springfield’s largest employer — is betting its recent investment in an Orlando company will provide a new level of protection for workers and a potential revenue stream for the future if the product takes off.
Mercy is one of several investors in Vestagen Protective Technologies Inc., a firm that developed new medical scrubs designed to protect workers from exposure to bodily fluids like blood and urine. Material woven into the fabric of the uniforms is designed to make fluids bead up and roll off the clothing instead of absorbing the liquid.
The scrubs are being made available to workers at several of Mercy’s facilities, including Springfield.
“The goal is to provide an alternative that’s safer than traditional scrubs,” said Nanette Bentley, a spokeswoman for Mercy.
Medical staff in Springfield will be able to purchase the new scrubs online through a secure website but they can choose to keep using their traditional scrubs. She said the cost for the new scrubs will be comparable to what employees can purchase now.
The potential harm from bodily fluids is a concern that employees regularly deal with, said Elaine Storrs, chief nursing officer at Mercy Health-Springfield.
“There are any number of instances where you can be unfortunately exposed to something,” Storrs said.
Along with material in the clothing that repels fluid, the new clothing also provides additional protection against bacteria, said DJ Hume, an implementation manager at Vestagen. He said the company was the first to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the product.
“Whenever some fluid hits the uniform, it beads up and by virtue of gravity falls off the uniform,” Hume said.
The new scrubs are also being rolled out at Mercy’s other Ohio locations, including Cincinnati, Toledo and Lima, and it will soon be made available in Kentucky, he said. Mercy has received access to the scrubs at a special price because it was one of Vestagen’s early investors, he said.
The company announced it secured $9.5 million in financing last fall from investors that also include Northwell Ventures and HealthQuest Capital. The scrubs are the company’s only product now, Hume said, but other products are being developed.
Mercy employs about 35,000 workers across Ohio and Kentucky, so rolling the product out across the company’s facilities will also be a good test of whether the new scrubs are popular and effective, Hume said.
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Mercy would also benefit as an initial investor if the company’s product takes off, Bentley said. This particular investment allows the company to provide a new benefit to employees while potentially providing more long-term revenue.
“It’s a chance to enhance our revenue stream, particularly at a time when health care revenues are up and down,” Bentley said.