23 Sep A Question for the IP: How is Your Facility Laundering its Linens Today?
A couple of years ago, there was a report in the news that during 2008 and 2009 five children died at a Louisiana children’s hospital from an infection passed to them through their hospital linens. To follow up on this tragedy, a reporter wanted to know if there had been any changes made in how the hospital laundered its linens. The reporter posed this question to the hospital’s associate medical director of patient safety and quality. According to her account, the reporter asked the medical director who was the hospital’s current launderer. First, the medical director responded that he didn’t think it was pertinent, and then he said he didn’t know. And he said he didn’t know a second time when asked the same question at a subsequent news conference. Keep in mind: This is the hospital’s director of patient safety and quality.
At the time, a colleague of mine expressed his bemusement at this ill-omened lack of awareness of critically important matters, and asked the question: “When it comes to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) and patient safety, who in the hospital hierarchy needs to know what and when?”
Similarly, since she/he is the expert on preventing and controlling the spread of infectious diseases, we ask of the infection preventionist (IP): Do you know how your facility is laundering its linens today? We fear your answer is, no.
My organization, the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC), recently had the privilege of exhibiting at the annual conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). At the APIC event, we learned that possibly all too often IPs are not making the connection to the fact that improperly laundered healthcare textiles (HCTs) can pose as a vehicle for the transfer of pathogens to patients and hospital workers. We learned of the need for increased awareness among IPs that, to minimize potential infection risks, a program that ensures hygienically clean and safe HCTs must be part of their infection prevention strategy. I say this because we want the IP to realize that the tragedy in Louisiana is not the only occurrence of patient deaths due to contaminated HCTs. We view this as an opportunity for HLAC to partner with IPs to provide this kind of education.