GREENVILLE, N.C. — As the laundry conduit for the world’s largest medical complex, the Texas Medical Center Hospital Laundry (TMCHL) Co-Op Association in Houston is now busier than ever.
Three years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the hospitals to curtail services, which led to a sharp decrease in patients and a steep drop in laundry volume.
With the health crisis officially over and a new management team in place, the co-op has successfully turned the corner and is now achieving production levels above pre-pandemic levels.
The TMCHL Co-Op account is managed by Crothall Laundry & Linen Services, the nation’s largest provider of healthcare laundry management and processing.
So, it is only fitting for one large and highly respected institution to service another, in this case handling the cleaning of bed sheets, scrubs, gowns, pillowcases, washcloths, bath towels, baby blankets and other such items.
Adam Dufresne joined TMCHL as operations manager in March 2022, and a new dynamic began to take shape three months later after he became the facility’s general manager.
He implemented changes that included new methods, hired more employees, and changed to an innovative and modern wash process solution from UNX-Christeyns.
The moves galvanized the operation, which is running nearly 24/7 to handle the workload increase.
“After a production drop of about 35% during the pandemic, we are now packing and shipping over 800,000 pounds of laundry a week,” Dufresne shares. “Our forecast is to produce in the neighborhood of 42 million pounds this fiscal year.
“Recruiting and building our management team was a long and difficult process. The management team, as well as the staff, suffered a large amount of turnover after the pandemic. In the past year, I trained the current team and they have done a spectacular job.
“We have a strong and knowledgeable group of people that succeeds even in the most challenging situations.”
EVERYTHING IN TEXAS IS ‘BEST’
More than 60 institutions, including 21 hospitals, comprise the 2.1-square-mile Texas Medical Center medical district.
Established in 1945 when World War II was ending, the campus today includes academic, research and specialty institutions in addition to medical, dental, nursing, and pharmacy schools and public health organizations.
All are not-for-profit and some are affiliated with the University of Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor College.
The center is a community unto itself. It employs more than 106,000 people, 20,000 of whom are physicians, scientists, researchers and other advanced degreed professionals.
It averages over 8 million annual patient visits—including guests from around the world—and more than 750,000 people visit the ER yearly.
Some of those people are patients at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the world’s largest cancer treatment facility.
One of a dozen institutions the TMCHL Co-Op processes linen for, the cancer center’s growth is in step with the state’s recent population gains; Texas has become the second-largest state with 30 million residents.
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center doubled its size in the last 10 years and now has more than 600 inpatient beds. This facility connects to several research buildings, outpatient clinics, office buildings and a hotel for patient’s families.
It also earned Newsweek magazine’s top-rated ranking as the world’s best specialized hospital for oncology in the last three years.
When Dufresne mentions how his team rises to the occasion every time, take into account their daily grind.
Besides the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, TMCHL manages linen services for the Houston Methodist System, TIRR Memorial Hermann, Memorial Hermann Orthopedic & Spine Hospital, Harris Health System, the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), Houston Hospice, Memorial Hermann-TMC, and a few others.
Memorial Hermann-TMC is a magnet-designated hospital, achieving gold standard status for nursing practice and innovation.
“All of the laundry is separated once it arrives here and is washed according to classification,” explains Dufresne. “We also have a surgical pack room where we provide reusable sterile linens.”
He began his laundry industry career 18 years ago in 2005, joining Prudential Overall Supply in San Diego as a route driver.
Now he’s in charge of an operation that employs 265 full-time workers and runs 13 shifts, seven days a week.
“Saturday afternoons are dedicated to our engineering team to handle preventative maintenance on all of our equipment,” he acknowledges.
The TMCHL engineering team has quite a task to fulfill on those Saturdays.
The 82,000-square-foot facility on Fannin Street is a Milnor/Chicago plant and houses a substantial amount of equipment to handle the workload.
“We have three tunnel systems on the floor. Two are 10-module, Continuous Batch Washers with PulseFlow technology, and the other is a Classic system with 12 modules,” says Dufresne.
“Each of the tunnels has five dryers, for a total of 15. We also have 13 Milnor conventional washers, in addition to the Chicago finishing machines. We use five of their ironers, four large piece folders and nine small-piece folders.”
NEW WASH PROCESS PRODUCING MULTIPLE BENEFITS
Dufresne said UNX-Christeyns became a vendor partner in September 2022 after participating in an RFP process.
“They brought an innovative and modern solution wash process to the table. We have since changed from hydrogen peroxide to a low-temperature PAA process,” says Dufresne about the system that was first introduced in Europe and has produced impressive results.
“This new process has resulted in us reducing our water and natural gas consumption. It is also extending the life of the linens and we are experiencing a decreased amount of stain and rag-out linens.
“The largest contribution from the new wash process arrangement is with our utility savings. We estimate our first-year savings will be about $230,000 compared to the previous wash process.”
The high-level peracetic acid formulation TCMHL implemented is Compact Max Process (CMP).
Juan Solache, the UNX-Christeyns account manager who works with the team and visits TMCHL on a regular basis, says it is environmentally friendly and contributes significantly to the benefits Dufresne mentioned.
“While PAA is only a small fraction of the CMP process, it has reduced TMCHL’s freshwater consumption by 25% and can reduce tensile strength loss or fabric damage by 30-50%, resulting in longer linen life and lower replacement costs,” says Solache.
He points out that converting from hydrogen peroxide has decreased the Btu’s that are required to wash while maintaining hygienically clean linen.
Solache also explains that detailed information reports UNX-Christeyns provides on a consistent basis include custom data collection to maintain TMCHL’s quality and cost goals.
“For example, some reports identify opportunities to maximize load efficiency or running random stain audits,” he says. “They can be used to compare audits completed by the team to identify areas for improvement, including the causes of the stains.”
Combined with the outstanding service they receive, Dufresne mentions it helps his operation run smoothly.
“The monthly service reports and Hygienically Clean tests, as well as the random quality audits, are reviewed by our leadership team,” he says.
“We are currently discussing with UNX-Christeyns the prospects of expanding on these reports and adding Laundry Dashboard in the future.”
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].