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In today’s medical care facilities, patients expect daily linen changes. In areas like ICUs, linen has to be changed even more frequently. Some hospitals also have contract with third parties to manage its laundry requirements. Relationships between the launderettes and hospitals get strained as hospitals face shortage of linen during crisis. Many a time, it is difficult to count soiled linen. This creates a rift between the hospital and the linen contractor. Consequently, hospitals lose on stock of linen, as new linen needs to be constantly bought to replace torn and soiled ones.

C Ganga Ganesh, Senior Executive Housekeeping of Faber Sindoori Management Services Private Limited at Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore says, “At Apollo Bangalore, we believe that attention to patient’s personal needs is as important as medication and therefore adequate supply of clean linen becomes imperative. Linen management plays a great role in patient satisfaction- it not only reduces the infection rate and operation cost but also helps in physician satisfaction- since it can prevent delay in OT and ICU procedures and also in CSSD operations and ultimately linen delivered on time contribute to patient satisfaction.”

Shortage of linen leaves patients dissatisfied. Sometimes, even surgeries get cancelled due to shortage of operation theatre linen. In order to overcome the above problems, it is imperative to have a linen management system that automatically tracks soiled and clean linen items continuously through the entire linen cycle. It is also essential to reduce the quantity of buffer linen stock at hospitals and ensure service quality standards in healthcare facilities.

Controlling Infection

The linen may be cotton or terry-cotton, printed or plain, with or without logo of the hospital printed on it. It could be contaminated with blood or other body fluids, or due to improper handling and storage. Clean linen does not need to be sterile but correct handling can help prevent the growth of micro-organisms that can develop under poor conditions. Although soiled linen can be contaminated with microorganisms, actual disease transmission from linen has been demonstrated to be negligible if it is handled, transported and laundered in a manner that avoids dispersal. The right choice of linen should also be kept in mind as it affects patient care and healthcare costs. The inventory needs to be scientifically stocked and maintained.

Stock of all linen should be taken every week. This helps tracing any linen that has been misplaced, and also helps in tracking damaged linen. – Ganga Ganesh

Ganga Ganesh further adds, “All linen must be stored in a central place – the linen department. This way it is easier to have a better control on the washing, distribution and maintenance of linen. This linen room must be situated close to the laundry or the washing area to facilitate easy movement of linen. The cupboards should be neatly labeled on the outside and on the inside, indicating the type of linen stored and the area to which it belongs. Stock of all linen should be taken every week. This helps tracing any linen that has been misplaced, and also helps in tracking damaged linen. Repair to damaged linen should be carried out immediately. Linen that cannot be repaired has to be set aside. This close monitoring of linen helps in good maintenance of linen and stocks.”

The housekeeping department at Apollo Bangalore follows a simple method of reviewing stock visually to see what items are in short supplies. Ganga Ganesh explains, “This stock taking exercise is done at the end of every month in the presence of housekeeping personals and internal auditors.”

Any wash process requires systematic approach of what kind of stains it needs to remove. After stain removal, energy savings and linen life monitoring stands at second priority. With the available chemical supply, wash programme should take care of oil removal at pre-wash and at main wash stage. This stage must ensure maximum removal of oil. There are particular chemistry options available for oil removal based on detergent system being used. In the later stage bleaching could be introduced to remove only the bleachable stains and not the oil based stains. If the results are unsatisfactory, it should be immediately brought to the chemical supplier’s notice. In case of F& B linen a maximum of 5% rewash is considered acceptable or the wash programme requires further fine tuning. Clean India Journal, Page: 21 (January 2012), Treating the F&B linen.

Today an increasing number of institutional laundries are adapting to various techniques to conventional laundry chemicals and methods. The advent of computer and microprocessor controls in the various laundry equipment has revolutionised their performance and dramatically reduced the number of employees as well as working hours. Some of the state-of-the-art technologies like electronic cameras have replaced human eyes in quality control, because the speed at which the linen passes through an ironer makes it impossible and tiresome for the human eye to detect holes/ stains in linen. There are also modular finishing machines available in the market, which have automated feeders, ironers and folders giving the linen a more hygienic and acceptable look.

However, the challenge today is not just of incorporating as well as switching over to new technologies that are being introduced in the market, but it is the continuous updating and upgrading of existing healthcare facilities.

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