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Questions About Healthcare Laundry Handling (Part 2)

Infection preventionists ask experts questions about privacy curtains

ATLANTA — The Association for Linen Management (ALM) fields many questions from infection preventionists (IP) regarding the processing and handling of healthcare textiles.

The association posed several of these questions, along with audience queries, to three experts during its Laundry/Infection Prevention Forum at The Clean Show here in 2022.

The healthcare laundry experts who have interacted with IPs regularly included Jim Mangini, director of linen services for Maine Medical Center; Jason Hartsell, vice president of operations for United Hospital Services; and Chip Malboeuf vice president of engineering and operations for ImageFIRST.

Former ALM Executive Director Linda Fairbanks moderated the session, and what follows are some of the highlights from the conversation about privacy/cubicle curtains.

Do you process privacy curtains? What does that process look like?

MALBOEUF:  This has been a relatively new path for us doing the cubicle curtains, the privacy curtains. We can either remove them for you or the EVS would be responsible for removing them, putting them in a soiled linen bag and then we'll process them. Then we will return them, and we can put them up or put them in a storage area for the EVS.

Coming up with a method that makes it a little easier to remove and replace has been key for this process for us to figure out, and how we track that. But, yes, we'll take it back process it, package it and send it back to the clinic.

Validating is one question Joint Commission seems to be honing in on as it relates to laundry and textiles in the hospital. How do you know when that was last washed? There is no industry standard on how often cubicle curtains should be washed; that's up to the hospital to decide. But how do you validate for them?

MALBOEUF:  In our case, we use RFID technology to track when the customer picks it up, when it goes back to the laundry it’s scanned again and then when it goes ready for delivery it’s scanned there and then it can be scanned back at the particular clinic.

So, we have a history of how many times who’s touched it last or when it was last touched and how many washes, how many cycles it’s gone through. So, we do have that data available.

HARTSELL: We’ve been doing cubicle curtains, privacy curtains, for about 15 years. It started out where it was trying to establish it in the hospitals for their records. There were a couple of iterations and different ways to track it. And we've kind of reached a happy spot with the tracking mechanism in place.

We use a barcode versus RFID. In our opinion, it's a little more reliable than RFIDs, and taking a curtain that is up in the room, we need to be able to have the IP or IC give us a barcode number and have us type it in versus having something that may not be human readable. Washing the curtain is straightforward. If they need to know the formula, that type of thing, that’s easy to provide. In the laundry, we prefer a curtain without a mesh on it. The mesh is a disaster, usually. It gets wrapped around your dryer and washer, and it gets ripped really easily. If you can avoid the mesh, all the better.

MANGINI: In our case, we partner with EVS since they're the ones responsible. We really started seeing this question pop up during COVID, when was the last time your curtains were processed. The clinics were more of the focus than our contagion units.

Are there, to your knowledge, recommended frequencies, obviously if they’re soiled you’re going to change it, but any routine frequencies for curtains?

HARTSELL: I've not seen something from what I would consider one of the reference sources for recommended number of washings. What I'm seeing from Joint Commission or the state board of health is if you have a policy that it’s this frequency you have your curtains removed and laundered, or if it's visibly soiled, if you have that policy in your facility, you better be following that policy, just like a lot of things.

MALBOEUF: It's nothing published. It really comes down to where it's being used in the facility.  How infectious the area is. For us, it’s really up to the hospital itself. IP makes that call.

MANGINI: Another thing about the Joint Commission, one of the things we’ve learned the hard way, let’s put it that way, is that if you have a policy and something is written in the policy, you better be executing it. Sometimes less is a lot better.

I’d encourage anybody with policies to go back and work with your IPs. Joint Commission is going to say your policy states cubicle curtains get changed every six months. How do you know? That’s the road they start to go down.

Miss Part 1 about quality control? Click HERE to read the questions and answers. Check back Tuesday for the conclusion with the forum’s final questions.

Questions About Healthcare Laundry Handling

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