By Marcia Love
As Cypress Health Region prepares for the big move into the Southwest Integrated Healthcare Facility later this spring, it has already begun using regional laundry services.
Beginning last week, laundry from the temporary emergency room located at the former TransGas building and Cypress Lodge is being transported to K-Bro Linen Systems in Saskatoon.
K-Bro is the private company that was hired by the province when it made the decision to centralize all hospital laundry services. While the service will not be privatized until the fall, Maple Creek is already making use of the service as it prepares to transition to the new health facility by June. It is being transported to K-Bro’s temporary location in Saskatoon while its Regina building is being constructed, where all institutional laundry from southern Saskatchewan will be cleaned come the fall.
Trent Regier, Cypress Health Region’s director of rural health, said the switch was made early to allow staff to focus on other areas when the new facility is in operation.
“This was an opportunity to do something ahead of time to reduce the anxiety and stress of moving into a new building and then also having another transition,” he explained.
While a laundry room was originally in the plans when the new health facility was in the design stages, residents were upset it was eliminated when the Ministry of Health stated it was policy that all new facilities in the province use regional laundry services for efficiency and cost-effective purposes.
Clean linens are now being stored in three rooms at Cypress Lodge, while soiled linens are being stored outside in a shed. Regier said it will be stored there in sealed plastic bags for four to five days.
“We’re very cognizant of proper storage,” he stated. “If we start seeing daytime temperatures and nighttime temperatures that potentially could cause a problem, we will make other arrangements.”
This would mean using the cooler at the new health facility, which is being commissioned and could be functional this week. Bryce Martin, spokesperson for Cypress Health Region, said public health has been involved in discussions about storage of soiled linens.
“Between the bags that K-Bro has for storage of soiled linen and then the additional plastic being used to cover the carts, the infection control standards have been met by storing them in the outside building,” he stated.
The linens being supplied are a new, high-quality brand, and staff were consulted to determine the right amount necessary. When clean linens are dropped off, soiled ones will be picked up, meaning there will be eight carts of linens in service, eight in transit and eight at the plant being cleaned, folded and repacked. According to Regier, there will be 10 days’ worth of linens on hand at the health facility.
“If a truck breaks down or can’t make it because of weather, we generally can get another truck within the next three days,” he said. “So if we have a 10-day window, we should never be put in a situation where we don’t have enough linens to operate.”
On the first day the new system was put into action last week, mechanical problems with the truck meant it was two hours late.
While the change itself was already challenging enough for staff, Regier said they “did a tremendous job… and rose to the challenge to get it done.”
The old hospital and Cypress Lodge both had their own commercial washer and dryer units, but when the hospital was closed last May laundry services were all moved to the lodge. Two additional commercial machines were added to account for the increased load, but Regier noted there was also less institutional linens because the community has no in-patient services at this time.
At the new health facility, the only laundry done on-site will be long-term care residents’ personal laundry. The three long-term care wings will each have their own laundry room.
Having institutional laundry done by the private company will ensure the quality of linens is maintained, and the health region will no longer have to maintain washers and dryers in the facility, Regier stated.
“Washing machines and dryers are probably one of our most high-maintenance pieces of equipment, and you can’t believe how much an industrial washer and dryer would cost,” he said.
As time goes on, the health region will continue to ensure it is a smooth transition, Regier said.
“We’ll monitor how things go and make quality improvements and work with the company to make sure that our resident needs are met foremost.”