Fighting Superbugs: Hygienically Clean Linen a Good Start

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The rise of the superbugs in America’s hospitals is certainly unsettling, if not unsurprising. Our healthcare system has been anticipating this day for a long time. Now that we find ourselves looking into the faces of superbugs that seem impervious to our efforts to kill them, our strategy has shifted from attacking them directly to preventing their spread through better hygiene. To that end, hygienically clean linen is a good place to start.

Hygienically clean linen should never be something hospital administrators compromise on. It is safe to say that the vast majority of U.S. hospitals do not have a problem in this area. But we are an exception to the rule. There are hospitals all over the world that either do not have the capacity to guarantee hygienically clean linens or don’t have the will necessary to implement good linen hygiene. That’s unfortunate. Superbugs thrive in unhygienic conditions.

Professionally Laundered Hospital Linens

Hospitals looking to make changes to their linens can choose between two options. The first is to modify and upgrade in-house systems to guarantee that laundry facilities are utilizing best practices. This includes upgrading equipment, taking a look at cleaning chemicals, redefining labor practices and policies, and so forth.

Some hospitals are going this route regardless of how much it costs to completely overhaul in-house laundry operations. However, the other option tends to be the cheaper one: renting linens from a provider already functioning at the highest level of hygiene.

Alsco, a Utah company that has been in the linens industry since the late 19th century, says that it is standard operating procedure for American linen providers to make hygiene the number one priority. They cannot risk not doing so. If a client ever runs into a problem as a result of unhygienic linens, the linen company would pay the price.

You could make the case that going with a linen provider is the better of the two options. After all, hospitals are not experts in doing the laundry. They are experts in treating disease and illness, setting broken bones, providing emergency room services, and so forth. Producing hygienically clean linens is a specialty best left to experts like Alsco.

Other Areas of Concern

Hygienically clean linen is just the starting point for combating superbugs. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, hospitals are pursuing other strategies as well. They cite a Wall Street Journal article that discusses hygiene and hospital fixtures. Here are three strategies the two publications came up with in their own research:

  • Computer Keyboards – Hospitals are awash with surfaces that can be contaminated by bacteria, viruses, and other germs. Everything from telephones to diagnostic equipment is a candidate. However, there is one particular component a hospital in Stamford, CT is focusing on: computer keyboards. The amount of bacteria found on a computer keyboard is astonishing.
  • Copper Elements – There is a move on to introduce more copper to the typical hospital environment. Why? Because it is believed that copper has germ-fighting properties. That has hospitals looking at copper for bed rails, tables, counter tops, and even copper-infused linens and hospital gowns.
  • Handshakes – Believe it or not, there are some hospitals implementing what they call handshake-free zones. By encouraging doctors and nurses not to shake hands with visitors, they hope to stem the spread of certain kinds of diseases. NICUs are prime candidates for handshake-free zones right now.
  • Superbugs are here. They are very real and very tough to deal with. So while a hospital may revamp its entire linen program to improve hygiene, hygienically clean laundry is just the start.