Model of the Future: Breaking Ground

Louisiana health system touts provider-owned PPE initiative.

August 2022 – The Journal of Healthcare Contracting

By Pete Mercer

Just a little over a year ago, ground was broken to create two new manufacturing facilities in Broussard, Louisiana, in an effort to curb the strain on the PPE supply chain in the United States. Now, SafeSource Direct is fully operational, producing PPE materials.

SafeSource Direct is a joint venture between Trax Development and Ochsner Health, Louisiana’s leading integrated healthcare system, which makes it the only U.S. provider-owned PPE manufacturer with U.S. provider-owned quality control, according to a release. In addition to that, these facilities have created 550 new jobs for Louisiana, with a projected 2,200 new direct and indirect jobs in the pipeline for the next two years.

“We launched SafeSource Direct just 12 short months ago amid the COVID-19 pandemic as a solution to national PPE supply chain shortages, and now, we’re producing thousands of gloves, masks, and other PPE every day; and we’re continuously expanding,” said SafeSource Direct CEO Justin Hollingsworth in a press release. “We’re keeping our promise to bring jobs to the Acadiana Region while helping keep our nation’s healthcare and other essential workers safe on the job.”

Cleaning up the PPE market

That guaranteed quality control is a significant step for PPE manufacturing. In the early days of the pandemic, the mad scramble for PPE materials created an environment where counterfeit and substandard items entered the marketplace. A lot of third-party organizations were looking to make a quick profit on something that frontline healthcare workers were depending on, further generating anxiety over an already complicated situation.

Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, Medical Director of Infection Control and Prevention at Ochsner Health said, “Taking care of our patients and protecting our healthcare workers is our priority at Ochsner Health. At the onset of COVID, we realized that PPE was a precious commodity, and we went through great lengths to conserve it wherever possible while at the same time keeping our patients and employees safe.”

By having that framework of quality control, especially with the supervision of a major healthcare system, SafeSource Direct is ensuring that the PPE going into the supply chain meets all the necessary criteria for the market. Not only is Ochsner Louisiana’s leading integrated healthcare system, but it’s also the top healthcare educator, making it an ideal partner for SafeSource’s efforts.

“There is now a sense of relief to know that we will have PPE available to us in our own backyard, and it’s coming from a safe, reliable source,” Baumgarten continued. “The products have been designed to meet the high-quality standards that we require to protect those caring for our patients. I am so grateful that Ochsner Health has taken this step to ensure that healthcare workers across the country will have the protection they need, so that we can focus on giving the very best care.”

Innovation leading the way

SafeSource Direct is using innovation and automation to provide high-quality PPE at a competitive price in a location that is primed to distribute the PPE materials to the rest of the nation. In the nitrile glove plant, two lines produce around 27,000 gloves an hour. In early 2023 there will be an additional 14 lines becoming operational, according to a release, making SafeSource Direct one of the largest manufacturers of nitrile gloves in America.

The other plant is focused on non-woven material, producing level 1 and 3 surgical ear loop and surgical tie masks, standard three-ply procedure masks, shoe covers. Eventually, this plant will also be producing N95 respirators, hair bouffants, and isolation gowns.

Vizient, one of the world’s largest group purchasing organizations, has partnered with SafeSource Direct to supply nitrile gloves to its thousands of member providers. With partnerships like this, SafeSource Direct will be able to create a PPE supply chain that improves resilience, reduces risk, and guarantees access with 130% flex capacity of normal volume, the release said.

Warner Thomas, President and CEO of Ochsner Health said, “Challenging times spark innovation. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have pushed boundaries and thought creatively about how best to deliver on our commitment to our patients and our communities. Manufacturing PPE that we depend on is a prime example. We are proud to play a leading role in ensuring a high-quality and reliable PPE supply made in America. We owe it to Ochsner’s healthcare heroes and others across the country to ensure they have everything they need to keep themselves and their patients safe – now and in the future.”

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