MIDLAND, Texas — Midland Memorial Hospital (MMH) is hoping to work with other regional hospitals to clean up — its laundry, that is.
VHA of Texas, part of a nationwide network of community-owned hospitals, is looking into the possibility of forming a regional laundry and linen co-op with MMH, Medical Center Hospital in Odessa and hospitals in Amarillo, Lubbock, San Angelo and Abilene.
“Financially, it’s the prudent thing to do,” Vice President of Support Services Cory Edmondson said. “We have increasing expenses with the economy. If there are ways we can partner together to help each other out, it’s the most logical thing to do.”
There is no cost estimate for the venture at this point, and it will be at least a year before anything is decided and another year before a facility is built. “We don’t know where it would be located, but it would be centrally located and convenient to the group,” Edmondson said.
MMH uses an outside firm to clean its linens. At a recent board of directors meeting, a yearlong rental agreement with Alsco was approved. The contract begins May 27, the day after its agreement with Snowhite Laundry expires.
The hospital had been working with Snowhite for more than a decade and was paying 35.5 cents a pound for cleaning. This year’s proposal was 62.5 cents a pound, which would have cost MMH $989,000 a year.
One of the main concerns with Alsco is quality control, although hospital staff inspects its laundry facilities yearly. “They ‘rag out’ (discard) their own linen, but it may not meet our own standards,” Edmondson said.
Recently, the hospital held a linen awareness day to show staff what poor-quality linen looks like. This includes fraying along the edges, tearing, thinning in spots and stains that can’t be removed.
“It will be a group effort between environmental services and nursing,” to keep an eye on things, Director of Environmental Services Will Jones said. “We will work with the staff in all realms to determine what is poor-quality linen and keep it from being circulated.”
Jones said MMH sends out 1.2 million pounds of laundry a year. Over the last three years, that has increased 100,000 pounds a year.
Edmondson added that the higher the number of patients at the hospital and the longer they stay, the more linen is used. Jones said the number might spike during flu season, for example.
Last year, processing and replacing linens cost the hospital $658,000. “This year, we’re projecting with the new rental agreement, $734,000,” Edmondson said. “The cost of processing linen has gone up significantly due to the cost of energy and transportation.”
As a result, Jones recently rolled out a policy that many hotels use, where people can request their linens be changed, but the hospital doesn’t have to do it every day. The ultimate decision will rest with the nursing staff, the patient and the patient’s family.
It mostly will be used for more ambulatory patients. Critical-care patients will still have their linens changed daily, if not several times a day.
“It won’t affect the entire population, but we feel a significant portion of the patient population could benefit from not having linen changed every day,” Jones said.
Linens will last longer if they’re not washed as much, Edmondson said.
“We let the customers know we’re taking this approach,” Edmondson said. “As a hospital, we want to be environmentally sensitive, too,” while saving money for Midland Memorial and taxpayers. “We’re still cognizant that we’re in a healthcare environment. This policy involved input from our infection control department, linen committee and nursing congress.”
The congress is part of the hospital’s new shared-accountability program. It was set up as part of the hospital’s quest for magnet status from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The new status is aimed at helping the hospital attract high-quality nurses and physicians, thereby bringing in more patients and improving its bottom line.
The hospital began implementing some of the linen changes in the last couple of weeks.
“It’s been an accepted practice,” Edmondson said. “We’re behind the curve. We’re one of the last ones to do this. Other facilities around the country have been doing this for years.”
This story originally appeared in the Midland Reporter-Telegramand is reprinted here with permission.