By Dave Ongie
After three years of hard work, the ink on the merger agreement that joined Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System together under the banner of Ballad Health is finally dry.
The Ballad leadership team has been busy since early February folding two organizations together into one entity that will serve the people of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The logistics involved in combining two hospital systems are certainly complicated, but Kristi Bode saw a golden opportunity in the minutia of the merger.
On August 1, everybody across the Ballad system will be required to wear scrubs that are color-coded according to their occupation. That means thousands of medical professionals in our area will find themselves with scrubs they can no longer wear.
Bode – director of patient resource management for the Johnson City Medical Center, Franklin Woods Community Hospital and the Niswonger Children’s Hospital – encountered a similar situation when she was working at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore back in 2010. At the time, she was on a committee that donated used medical equipment to Global Links, an organization based in Pittsburgh that provides international medical aid to those in need.
When Global Links heard everyone in the 900-bed Johns Hopkins facility in East Baltimore was preparing to change to a new color of scrubs, they launched a Save Your Scrubs program to collect the donated clothing from medical professionals that could then be used by workers in clinics in undeveloped countries.
“We collected the scrubs for six months, and we were able to collect 800 pounds, almost a ton of scrubs just with the downtown East Baltimore campus of Hopkins,” Bode said.
That got Bode to thinking. If medical professionals in one facility could work together to make that big of a difference, what impact could the 21 facilities under the Ballad Health banner make?
“I think it’s like a limitless opportunity here. If we could get 800 pounds from just one facility, with 21 facilities minimum doing this, we can get thousands of pounds of scrubs,” she said. “It’s so simple to do. Everybody in health care has old scrubs.”
So this past Monday, Bode launched a Save Your Scrubs drive for the employees in the 21 hospitals that comprise Ballad’s network. Receptacles were placed at employee entrances, and clothing will be collected through the end of August. At that point, it will be turned over to Global Links, which will put the items to good use.
“There is so much need, not only in our country, but across the world for these medical clinics that they set up,” Bode said. “If they’re able to focus their finances, their funds and their donations on things like staff and equipment and antibiotics, and not have to waste their money on scrubs in these resource-poor areas, it can help so many people.”
As time goes on, Bode wants to expand the drive to doctor’s offices affiliated with Ballad as well as home health organizations, skilled nursing centers and the community at large. The Save Your Scrubs drive will accept anything from surgical caps to lab coats to shoes to bottoms and tops. Bode said a retired nurse who kept the clothing she wore back in the 1970s donated a dress made out of the same material as scrubs.
“We really can take a lot and do a lot of people some good with this surplus,” she said.
While Bode hopes the entire region participates in the drive, she’s particularly happy to see how the Save Your Scrubs drive has served as a team-building activity for the employees at Ballad.
“It’s just great to bring everybody together to work on one thing as one huge, unified team to really effect people globally,” Bode said. “People have reached out since the word has gotten out, and it’s just really exciting. I’m just glad that the administrative team is helping push it forward.”
For more information on how you can participate in the Save Your Scrubs drive, contact Bode at email@example.com. Donations are tax deductible.