Countless patients wear inpatient/outpatient facility and hospital gowns each and every day. With the heightened risk of spreading germs, illness or disease, prudent cleaning and stocking processes are extremely important to staff and patient safety.
Obvious stains and a lack of cleanliness affect patient satisfaction, but think of how patient perception would be impacted if someone developed bronchitis after visiting your facility for a broken bone. Foolproof processes mitigate the risks of creating more health concerns.
The following are five “behind-the-scenes” facts you must know about cleaning and stocking hospital gowns and medical linens:
1. Many laundering facilities don’t separate clean and soiled linens.
Soiled linens arrive in canvas bags within carts, but some companies keep both clean and soiled hospital linens together in one large area. The laundry service best practice is to ensure complete separation of soiled from clean linens. Not only should there be physical barriers between the two, but airflow systems within the facility should only blow from the clean area to the dirty – never the reverse.
2. There’s a recipe for washing medical clothing and bedding.
Like apple pie has a recipe, so does ensuring clean hospital gowns and linens. The three components of medical cleaning are wash agitation, temperature and chemicals. It’s essential for the parts of the cleaning process to have the right mix. If a facility is strapped for time, it might agitate the wash for a shorter amount of time and compensate by increasing the temperature or adding more chemicals. This compensation compromises the cleanliness of your medical gowns and linens.
3. Mixing clothing from other industries with medical clothing is a hazard.
Your medical laundry must only be washed with other medical laundry. You might naturally assume that this is standard operating procedure, but shockingly, it is not. Many companies that handle and wash laundry for various industries are cross-contaminating with medical garments.
Some companies handle uniforms from diverse industries such as restaurant, hospitality, manufacturing and automotive. Horror stories are numerous – restaurant silverware ending up in washed medical linen, and “clean” medical laundry smelling like oil and gasoline.
4. Clean clothes must only touch clean products.
When laundry employees enter their facility, they must change into sanitized garments in order to handle the clothing. Unlike the operating room, masks and thorough scrub-downs are not necessities, but associates should never wear street clothes on the job.
5. Soiled and cleaned laundry must always be separate during transport.
As is the case within the laundry facility itself, soiled and cleaned hospital gowns and linen should be clearly separated during transportation to and from your facility. Soiled garments must be carried in heavy-duty bags in linen carts. The separated, clean clothes should be double-bagged.
Medical facilities and their staff have to be just as diligent in housing their inpatient/outpatient linens and hospital gowns. Clean, stocked linens should never be stored in the same room or closet as soiled ones. In addition, clean medical laundry should always be protected by a plastic barrier: Linens, towels and blankets should have a plastic wrap around them, while gowns and robes need to be sealed and wrapped individually.
Remember, patient safety and satisfaction are always on the line. Make sure that you’re extremely careful with every aspect of your cleaning and stocking practices. The health of both your patients and your employees depends on it.