How textile hygiene is affected in times of virus outbreak
All healthcare facilities struggle with daily challenges around hygiene and textiles, both during times of ravaging viruses as well as under more normal situations. That is why it is extremely important to help facilitate staff work so that hospitals can maintain the highest level of textile hygiene. Also, it will help you reduce costs and get a better flow in textile handling.
The everyday challenge of textile hygiene
A common problem in many hospitals is that members of the staff not only pick up clothes for today’s work shifts but also take the opportunity to collect garments they need for several days of work. This means that clean, new work garments are being stored in personal lockers, along with private clothes and belongings. In some cases, even used hospital clothes are stored in the same place – which is unacceptable from a hygiene aspect.
The main challenge causing this is the distance between the dispenser cabinets and the changing rooms, why many believe they are saving time and energy by picking up several sets of garments at the same time. But hoarding clothes is not only a hygienic issue, it also affects colleagues and the entire chain of textile handling at the hospital.
The lack of workwear for colleagues
When people collect more clothing items than they should, there will eventually be a shortage of certain sizes or models in the dispenser cabinets. Usually, around 25-35 people share the same dispenser cabinet. That means colleagues might not get clothes that fit them and instead need to use different sizes – or, even worse, have to look elsewhere if a garment is out of stock. In the long run, the dispenser cabinets have to be refilled several times a day, rather than every other day.
Poor flow throughout the textile chain
When work garments are piling up in personal lockers – the textile supplier must produce more and more clothing on behalf of the hospital. When the textile stock increases, so do costs, which is something many hospitals want to avoid. The goal is to have as steady a flow around the clothes as possible – which means that collection and return as well as washing and transport must work seamlessly. Starting from the point where a clean garment is withdrawn from a dispenser cabinet until it comes back again, the whole chain takes between 3-7 days.
The escalating challenges during covid-19 are mainly that the staff refuse to touch their work clothes when they’ve showered, changed, and finished their work shift. As a result, heaps of clothes remain in the changing rooms and are not returned correctly. The main goal is for everyone to return what they’ve used during their last shift – but these days, someone else needs to be responsible and make sure the garments return to the laundry. Not only does this mean that cleaning staff has to patrol more often, but the so-called clothing credits people have will run out.
Usually, healthcare employees have a certain number of credits, say 10, which means that you can collect 10 items of clothing, which usually is enough for a whole week. When you return a garment, it is registered, and the employee gets the credit back. By not returning the clothes correctly after the work shift, it can take several days before the garment is registered and the credit returned to the account. In these cases, the employee may have to request more credits from the administration. This creates additional costs and hours of work in the textile chain, as extra staff may be required to help collect the clothes.
Fewer credits and a smaller textile stock
To reduce the hoarding of clothes and ensure that the staff return their used garments immediately after their shift, there are some valuable measures to take. Reducing the number of clothing credits is one. In the past, each employee often had 15-20 garments – but in limiting the number of credits, people need to return clothes more often. Going from 20 to 10 credits is a big step, but in some hospitals and care facilities, people can have as few as 4. To be successful, textile management must be alert, make sure no sizes run out, and that the right type of items are in place. Otherwise, the result could be reversed; as employees know that items are in danger of running out, they become more likely to stock up on clothes – thus creating a vicious circle.
Fewer credits have great benefits for both the hospitals, the textile supplier and society as a whole. With a better flow around the clothes, the manufacturing and delivery of garments can also be reduced, which in turn minimizes the environmental impact. With a more efficient and faster textile chain, from the dispenser cabinets via the staff to the laundry and back to the hospitals, we can minimize the number of garments in circulation. Fewer textiles mean reduced costs!
Dispenser cabinets and storage solutions closer to the staff
One of the most crucial measures, in order to streamline the textile flow, is to make it as easy as possible for staff to pick up and return their clothes. The best solution is to ensure that there are return units directly in or adjacent to the changing rooms, making it uncomplicated to return the garment after the shift. When garments are registered straight away, the employee gets their credit back immediately.
Another possible solution is to have large bags or cages close to the changing rooms, where employees can easily throw away their used clothes. However, this could result in clothes not being registered until later, when the full bags are taken care of. Minimizing the number of dispenser cabinets is another measure that is being tried, which means less opportunity to collect several garments, but also a more frequent need for refilling.
Information about textile hygiene to the staff
To succeed in getting a more efficient flow, it’s not enough to create better staff conditions – each employee must also understand the purpose. In times like these, everyone is obviously very aware of the hygiene aspect in many ways. The fact that private clothes and work clothes should not be mixed due to the spread of bacteria is something people might not acknowledge as much. That’s why it’s important to communicate with communication around this as well.
Perhaps the best way to convince the staff is talking about access to sizes and models. By hoarding clothes, people directly put their colleagues in a tough situation. If a certain size has run out, or if a special garment is completely missing just when someone is about to go on their shift – their colleague will end up in a very difficult position. This human aspect is important to make the staff understand why, for example, their number of credits will be reduced. At the same time, it’s important to be clear and to convey exactly what everyone has to do to have things run smoothly. When people understand how the entire chain actually works, it’s also easier to create change among employees.