Patients are surrounded by and exposed to a variety of medical textiles that pose a potential threat to their health and safety. Scrubs, bed sheets, blankets, towels, patient gowns and privacy curtains are considered textiles capable of carrying organisms and serving as a reservoir for bacterial transmission.
When assessing a healthcare linen rental and laundry service provider, here are three things you should look or ask for to ensure your patients are protected from pathogens.
- Ask for Documentation.
Not all laundering is created equal. For example, did you know that home laundering or dry cleaning are ineffective at removing potentially dangerous bacteria from linen?
The CDC’s Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities recommend laundry to be “hygienically clean,” however that term has no standardized definition. Therefore, ask the provider how they define it and how they prove that they meet their own definition on an ongoing basis. If they provide test results, ascertain if the results were conducted internally or if an external, independent laboratory runs the tests.
If a laundry service provides confirmation of its hygienically clean claim from an independent laboratory, although not strictly necessary, this provides added peace of mind. Ideally, both independent and internal testing are preferable.
- Check for Industry Certifications.
Currently, there are two main industry certifications:
- TRSA’s Hygienically Clean (HC) Certification: A laundry service can attain this certification by deploying best management practices (BMPs) to pass bacteriological testing and facility inspections. TRSA does not dictate the BMPs, but it does require that used protocols and processes are documented and practiced.
- Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council’s (HLAC) Accreditation: This accreditation covers the complete textile processing cycle, from handling and transporting soiled healthcare laundry to in-plant processing and delivery back to the customer. HLAC’s standards also cover many basic considerations, such as facility layout and personnel training, with special attention to OSHA-required practices.
The pros and cons of these certifications or accreditations are largely immaterial, except for one salient point: achieving either means that an outside agency has confirmed the laundry’s practices meet that agency’s standards.
- Get Familiar with the Entire Process.
Laundering is only part of the equation when it comes to clean and safe linen. As a healthcare provider, you should always check to make sure a laundry service’s clean linen have been transported using barrier methods to keep them separated from soiled linen and free from dust, dirt and other contaminants during transport.
Transportation reveals another weakness of the hygienically clean claim: Textiles are only hygienically clean until they are contaminated, whether through poor transport procedures or through pathogen contact in the healthcare setting.