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COVID-19: Operators Recommend Material Handling, Chemistry Reviews

Proper training, following guidelines key, share healthcare laundry operators

CHICAGO — As the COVID-19 disease outbreak from China, caused by the Coronavirus strain 2019-nCoV, continues to grow, information is key for laundry and linen operations that serve healthcare clients. 

American Laundry News contacted healthcare laundry providers on the situation and received input from Edward McCauley, president and CEO of United Hospital Services in Indianapolis, and David Griggs, general manager of Superior Linen Service’s Healthcare Division located in Muskogee, Okla.

For McCauley, proper material handling and donning of personal protective equipment (PPE) is vital.

“As most are aware, the soil sort departments of healthcare laundries treat all soiled linens as if they are contaminated,” he points out. “This means that these workers are fully gowned, gloved and depending on the severity masked and capped.  

“That said, some laundries are deficient in methodology and procedures around standard precautions, such as proper donning and doffing of the gowns and other PPE.”

McCauley says that if PPE aren’t put on properly, contamination could make its way into the cracks and crevices of the improperly donned gear. Likewise, if PPE aren’t taken off properly, the contamination could touch the skin by mistake.  

“Proper training in this area will give our employees the confidence they need to know that they will be safe when handling these contaminated linens,” he adds.

McCauley goes on to say that healthcare laundries should be “doubling down” on the best practice for preventing any virus from compromising their workers—to wash hands for 20 seconds with soap or alcohol and to never touch any part of their faces with their hands. 

“If these two measures are consistently followed, then our employees will be safe from the spread of Coronavirus,” he says.

Griggs points out that the early symptoms of COVID-19 are the same as the flu normally see this time of year, so a hospital may be unaware it is dealing with a case from 2019-nCoV. 

“Fortunately, healthcare laundries are trained to handle all soil linen as contaminated, and as long as they are following guidelines set by Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC) and TRSA Hygienically Clean standards, the laundry personnel will be protected,” he shares, echoing McCauley’s statements. 

Some of the steps are as follows:

  • All soil linen should be bagged at the hospital before it is placed in the transportation cart. No loose linen should be transported between facilities.
  • All soil room personnel should be wearing their PPE—plastic gloves, barrier coats, medical face mask and glasses. 
  • The soil room should be cleaned and disinfected at the end of the shift.
  • Carts should be cleaned and disinfected before they are reused for clean linen.

Griggs says the linen itself will be decontaminated using a standard healthcare formula, adding that “it would be a good time to have a representative from your chemical provider perform wash titrations to ensure all chemical and temperatures are reaching disinfecting levels.”

“There is no need to treat healthcare linen any differently than how we do it as an industry now, as we already treat the linen as if it is contaminated with blood, viruses and bacteria,” McCauley adds. 

“As long as we are diligent in properly donning and doffing our PPE and following other important blood borne pathogens protocols, our employees will be safe.  

“There is no evidence to suggest that this particular Coronavirus will survive the wash chemistry and temperatures in the wash-and-dry process, and so we are confident that our entire laundry process is sufficient to kill the virus and yield hygienically clean linens.”

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(Image licensed by Ingram Publishing)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].