ROCKLEDGE, Fla. — Bill Carey has been in the laundry business his entire adult life. Six years ago, he took over the helm at Space Coast Hospital Services, a not-for-profit hospital cooperative laundry.
“Our mission is to help our hospitals reduce their cost of linen services,” Carey says. “If we don’t help them, somebody else will. We are operating in an extremely competitive environment right now, and we have to deliver.”
Education, Training Lead to Savings
Besides linen management, another area where Space Coast Hospital Services has reduced client linen costs is in isolation gowns. Carey credits Bobby Coble, territory manager, acute care, Encompass Group, with helping meet client needs.
“Traditional gowns tie in the back,” Coble says. “Ties in the back are more difficult for patients to untie. Disposables were reportedly preferred by many patients because they could just rip them off and throw the gown away.”
Encompass came up with a gown that ties on the side, enabling patients to more easily take it off and making the garment more acceptable for isolation applications, according to Coble.
Space Coast Hospital Services provides linen management support in each hospital in areas of linen utilization and educational programs. It also partners with Encompass, which provides customers with a linen-management tracking tool to pinpoint cost and usage by user area.
Pam Perdicaro, Carey’s service manager, reaches out to hospital clients to help them better understand laundry and linen operations, and how correct procedures can reduce their costs.
Quarterly hospital linen service director meetings and semi-annual on-site linen awareness programs emphasize training. “Nursing needs to understand that any additional linen left in a room has to be removed and sent back to the laundry for processing when the patient leaves,” Perdicaro says. “Storing additional items in a patient room just adds to their costs.”
There is improvement after the meetings and training, according to Perdicaro, but the laundry has found that regular reviews are needed to keep things fresh in everyone’s mind.
For example, the laundry learned that some certified nursing assistants were discarding soiled incontinent pads that could have been laundered. “They were throwing away the items that they thought were ‘too dirty,’” Perdicaro says.
“Another major area of linen cost that we manage is linen loss from transport,” Carey says. “We now provide specific EMT packs of linen for transporting patients leaving a hospital. The packs contain linen items needed, but they may have a small stain or tear that would keep them out of our standard linen inventory.”
It is an efficient way to utilize linen that would otherwise go to rag out, while in turn reducing clients’ linen losses, Carey says.
“Information and training saved one of our clients $350,000 over the last five years by reducing their pounds per adjusted patient day,” he says.
Staff is Key to Co-op Laundry’s Success
Carey credits his staff with initiatives to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Plant Operations Manager Ray Esche evaluated truck run and idle times to reduce diesel consumption.
“We used to have to keep our trucks idling during the unload process in order to power the lift gates,” Carey says. “We worked with our lift gate supplier to install remote lift-gate power outlets at the dock. Now, the lift gates work off electricity, allowing the diesel engines to shut down.”
Space Coast Hospital Services also installed governors on its delivery trucks to limit highway speeds to 68 mph. Fuel consumption reports show that transportation miles per gallon were increased by 14.5% for the truck fleet.
Kelley Desjardins, production manager, tracks daily plant processing production every day.
“We bonus our production employees for performance,” Desjardins says. “Once the plant performance threshold is met, the production employee needs to reach at least 98% of the production standard for any bonuses to kick in. Bonuses increase as pounds per operator hour increases for the entire plant.”
The plant, originally built in 1982, was expanded and upgraded with tunnel washer technology in the early ’90s. Two Milnor tunnel washers and four Chicago Dryer Co. finishing lines meet core production requirements.
Although designed for 15 million pounds per year on a single shift five days a week, economic conditions have reduced processing requirements.
“In order to reduce operating costs and still keep our people working, we went to four production days, eliminating Wednesday linen processing,” Carey says. “Office, maintenance, and delivery still operate five days per week.”
Thirty-one of 67 employees have worked at Space Coast for more than 10 years. “Our people are the key to our success, and employee retention is very important to us,” Carey says.
He remains positive about the future. “We are well positioned for additional business. We will continue to be a high-quality linen service and will always stay committed to our mission of providing the best service and quality product at the lowest possible cost.”