Op-ed: Commercial laundries serve hospitals safely and effectively

Recent lawsuits related to mold outbreaks at some hospitals should not deter hospitals from using commercial laundries. The fact is, commercial laundries are demonstrably safe and effective and provide a vital service that allows hospitals to focus on their primary mission: patient care.

Each year, tens of thousands of tons of linens are laundered for healthcare facilities around the globe without incident. Since the late 1970s, the Centers for Disease Control can identify only 13 incidents worldwide connecting laundry hygiene to healthcare-associated infections, and only three of these in the United States.

Hospitals' use of certified laundry facilities saves them from dedicating resources toward a function unrelated to their core mission. Commercial laundries also benefit the environment by aggregating water and other supplies in higher volumes and benefit hospitals financially.

Many hospital laundries have received the Hygienically Clean Healthcare certification, which is recognized as the highest standard of certification in healthcare linen safety and cleanliness, and is the only healthcare standard in North America that requires initial and ongoing quarterly microbiological testing based on internationally recognized protocols and standards.

In addition, Hygienically Clean Healthcare tests for molds and yeasts, and after more than 3,000 microbial tests of healthcare linens and garments, there has never been any evidence of Rhizopus or other dangerous molds.

Hygienically Clean Healthcare standards for processing linens and garments require inspection to verify laundries' commitment to best management practices plus this microbial testing to quantify hygiene of clean textiles produced. Certification confirms a laundry's dedication to compliance and BMPs as described in its quality assurance documentation. The standard also requires quarterly ongoing microbial testing and a supplemental second inspection during a facility's three-year certification period.

Of course, any loss of life is catastrophic and heartbreaking and something that teams of people on all fronts are passionately dedicated to avoiding. When it does happen, it's imperative of course to investigate and to learn from the eventual outcome.

The lawsuits brought by the families of the victims at several UPMC hospitals are beginning to shed some information; but so far it is an incomplete, and possibly misleading picture.

Despite an internal report from an environmental expert investigating the laundry facility that suggested such a link, in fact no conclusive evidence has been found.

And, the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health did not implicate linens as a source of mold that infected the UPMC patients and both agencies stated they would not investigate further.

As the facts of these cases continue to become apparent, we encourage hospitals and the healthcare community to rely on the extremely strong safety record and strong certification requirements of the commercial laundries that serve them.

Joseph Ricci
President and CEO

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