BRADENTON -- A Bradenton woman who invented and sewed custom patient scrubs for her husband during his seven-month stay in Manatee Memorial Hospital is about to sell commercial versions of her invention to a wider market.
Nancy Hart, a 20-year Manatee County resident, recently worked out a manufacturing partnership between her company, Patient Scrubs, and North Carolina-based medical textiles manufacturer Hinson & Hale Medical Technologies.
A new generation of the scrubs, which are designed to fully cover patients while allowing convenient access for medical staff and devices, goes on sale this month.
Having a manufacturer based in the United States will make it easier to get Patient Scrubs to market, Hart says. Orders will have a lead time of just a few days. Previously, the garments were made in India. The manufacturer there took up to five months to deliver.
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Hart said she prefers to have her product made in the U.S. because it helps boost the textile industry.
"We need to give people here jobs," she said.
Hart characterizes the past 11 years as a development period for her scrubs. She designed her first set of scrubs to spare her husband, Robert, the embarrassment of wearing an open-backed patient gown during a months-long hospital stay in 2003. She later wore them herself as a patient while being treated for breast cancer in 2009.
"I got tired of seeing people without their dignity," she said.
Similar in appearance to the scrubs hospital staff wear except that the bottoms come as shorts, Patient Scrubs are built with snap closures that allow access to any part of a patient's body. They can even be removed without having a patient stand.
Patient Scrubs first went on the market in 2008. Hart said she has sold several thousand sets since then, but she has yet to make direct sales to any Bradenton-area hospitals.
The newest designs come with ports that allow medical professionals to run medical telemetry equipment, heart monitors and drains through the garments. At the same time, the scrubs can be closed to the point where they can be worn comfortably outdoors, Hart said.
The scrubs will be made with Hinson & Hale's proprietary polyester fabric. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as surgical wrappers and towels, the fabric is marketed as being quick to dry and optimally washed in bleach. Previously, the scrubs were made from a cotton-polyester blend.
Under the partnership, Patient Scrubs will also market a line of scrubs for medical professionals. All the company's products will be available on the Patient Scrubs website, patientscrubs.com. Hunt will also market to hospitals for direct purchase.
Even with the switch to U.S. manufacturing, the prices of the scrubs will drop. Hart said some full sets of her company's scrubs will sell for "about half" of what she currently charges. A set of Patient Scrubs now runs about $52.
Patient Scrubs is a small company, funded by Hart and "a few shareholders." Hart runs the company between her homes in Bradenton and Johnson City, Tenn.
She said she will do her early marketing for the scrubs in Manatee County.
Glenn Clarke, president and chief executive officer of Hinson & Hale, said the partnership with Patient Scrubs gives both companies an opportunity to grow in a new market. While Hinson & Hale has manufactured operating room scrubs since 2005, Clarke said scrubs for patients puts his company into "a new side" of the market.
"I think we're both trying to grow our businesses," Clarke said.
In addition to making its products domestically, Hinson & Hale produces all its fabric and garment components in the United States. The 20-person workforce at the Wilkesboro, N.C. Hinson & Hale manufacturing plant will start making Patient Scrubs products next week.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.