Laundry Workers Confront Risks in Healthcare Facilities

Essential workers keep hospitals and nursing homes running by washing soiled linens, uniforms and gowns

December 28, 2020

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in March, the general public has recognized the risks to front-line healthcare workers — doctors and nurses — on the job each day. Support staff in hospitals, including maintenance technicians and administrative assistants — also have been acknowledged for their efforts to work in potentially risky environments. Unfortunately, one group of workers crucial to the operation of these facilities has been mostly overlooked for the past nine months — laundry workers.

Workers at a leading commercial laundry firm that cleans sheets for some of New York City’s biggest hospitals say every day on the job places them at greater risk of COVID-19 infection, according to BNN Bloomberg.

Industry CEOs from all over the United States voiced concern earlier this month about potential outbreaks, too. The employees’ unions for these workers contend that while some operators have taken adequate measures to protect workers, others have not.

Unitex Textile Rental Services is among the biggest players in a $3 billion industry that keeps hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities running by washing soiled linens, uniforms and gowns. Five Unitex laundry workers interviewed by Bloomberg News contend some workspaces have poor ventilation, or a lack of social distancing and limited access to personal protective equipment. 

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