Infection preventionists (IPs) need to better understand how to "navigate the intersection where healthcare laundry and infection prevention come together," writes John Scherberger in a recently published article in Infection Control Today (ICT) magazine. Scherberger is board president of the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC).
HLAC is a nonprofit organization that inspects and accredits laundries processing textiles for hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities.
"For the IP, the goal of navigating the intersection of healthcare laundry and infection prevention is to ensure hygienically clean healthcare textiles (HCTs) for every patient in the hospital," Scherberger says. "This is especially true for those IPs who are part of a multidisciplinary team approach to infection prevention strategy."
The article, "Navigating the Intersection Where Healthcare Laundry and Infection Prevention Meet," is the first of an ICT series about the role of healthcare laundry in infection prevention. A link to the article can also be found at HLAC's LinkedIn company page.
In the article, Scherberger notes that maintaining hygienic HCTs is as important to quality patient outcomes as practicing proper hand hygiene. "The healthcare textile is the one common factor of every patient experience in their hospital or long-term facility encounter," he writes. "Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals fail to maintain the hygienic integrity of HCTs. We go to great lengths to foster proper hand hygiene. We need to do the same to maintain hygienically clean HCTs."
Scherberger also says ensuring hygienic HCTs is not exclusive to the launderer - it's everyone's job. "An article of linen can become contaminated at the healthcare facility whether or not it was processed properly to these standards at the healthcare laundry. This makes the job of maintaining hygienic HCTs everyone's - the nurse, the environmental services (EVS) technician, the IP and the launderer (and transporter)."
Lastly, Scherberger says it's not an "either/or" decision when choosing a laundry as an infection prevention partner. "Because laundering of HCTs is a process with distinct stages that requires adherence to standards every step of the way, choosing a laundry as an infection prevention partner is not an either/or decision, even though choices are available. This is true whether your facility has its own on-premise laundry or you contract with an outside vendor, or whether yours is a hospital or another kind of healthcare facility."
Scherberger concludes: "HCTs should not and cannot be viewed with a lesser concern than other healthcare interventions. They must be viewed as a very important intervention to attain quality patient outcomes."