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Survey: Linen Loss Remains Top-of-List Problem for Laundry Services

CHICAGO — Linen loss is one of the biggest problems faced by laundry services management, according to the results of this month’s Wire survey, and can be attributed to facility staff as well as hospital patients or hotel guests.

Roughly 9% of respondents say linen loss is their No. 1 problem, and 45.5% say it is “one of our biggest issues.” Approximately 39% say linen loss is “no worse than any other issue.” This loss is “an issue only on rare occasions” for the remaining 6.1% of respondents. No one who took the unscientific survey believes that linen loss is “no problem at all.”

So how do these losses occur? Respondents were asked to select any or all factors from a list of five possibilities, including “other.” Among patients or guests, linen loss, according to 62.5%, is most often due to improper disposal (throwing textiles away before the laundry can attempt to clean them). Deliberate theft (taking items for personal use or resale – 56.3%), abuse/improper use (53.1%) and inadvertent theft (belief that items can be taken after a hospital stay or hotel visit – 46.9%) are other key causes.

The remaining 9.4% identified as “other” is attributed to patients being transported by ambulance to another facility. A hospital’s linens are sent with a departing patient, or the ambulance crew takes additional goods.

In the case of staff, abuse/improper use (72.7%) is the primary cause, respondents say, but improper disposal follows closely at 69.7%. Next in line are deliberate theft, or inadvertent theft (staff wearing scrubs or lab coats home, for example), each selected by 42.4% of respondents. Roughly 6% of respondents selected “other,” further explained as staining from an antiseptic used during surgery.

“We have a problem with laundry personnel damaging material thru inability of managers to train operating personnel correctly,” one respondent adds.

Roughly 61% of respondents say their laundry service offers some type of linen education to end users or customers, and 63.6% say they know the exact cost to purchase and process each item processed by their laundry and can compile this information easily.

Approximately 49% say their laundry utilizes linen-management software to track usage, and 63.6% say they believe their institution or company considers its linen worthy of committing attention and resources to its protection.

“I think most institutions know what is happening to their linen, but they do not want to be confrontational in addressing the issues,” writes one respondent. “It is much easier to intimidate the faceless laundry, but that solves nothing. I think administration considers it a cost of business and that’s the end of their involvement.”

“Staff throws it away. Administration says (to) buy more. There is no administrative support for replacement costs,” writes another.

While the Wire survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific.

Subscribers to Wire e-mails are invited to take a brief industry survey anonymously online each month. All managers and administrators of institutional/OPL, cooperative, commercial and industrial laundries are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and industry trends.

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