BOISE, Idaho — There is no mistaking the excitement in Randy Rhodes’ voice. Having spent most of his adult life working in the St. Luke’s Health System laundry, he can’t wait to talk about its pending relocation from the basement of a shared building to a state-of-the-art, semi-automated facility that will be three times larger.
“If we could move in tomorrow, we’d do it,” Rhodes says while speaking by phone about the just-started project.
St. Luke’s Health System spent $19.5 million to buy two vacant industrial buildings here last fall to accommodate its growth. One will become a central laboratory, the other will house St. Luke’s laundry. Demolition work at the latter began in May, and construction/equipment installation is due to be completed by April 2011.
Rhodes started as a production operator in the St. Luke’s Health System laundry just after high school, more than 30 years ago, and he has managed the department since 1992.
His laundry covers roughly 15,000 square feet in the basement of a central services facility across the street from St. Luke’s Boise Regional Medical Center. The new location is about 2 miles away.
Using a conventional wash aisle featuring G.A. Braun and Milnor equipment, the department processes 7.3 million clean pounds annually for seven hospitals—St. Luke’s Boise, Eagle, Meridian, and Wood River (Ketchum); Saint Alphonsus; Walter Knox Memorial Hospital (Emmett); and the Elks Rehabilitation Hospital—and many off-campus medical clinics.
Most of the laundry’s production is done between 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily; it will follow a similar schedule after the move (a Tuesday-through-Saturday split shift that is needed now will be eliminated). His staff includes 41 full-time-equivalent positions.
The operation is labor-intensive, as workers have to manually unload wet linen from washers and handle tangled sheets and other items for flatwork finishing. Much of that will change when it shifts to a 45,000-square-foot plant housing two Milnor tunnel washers, two shuttles and a bank of dryers.
“It’s like night and day compared to what we’re doing now,” Rhodes says. “The neat thing about it is … from sorting until it comes out of the dryers, it’s not touched.”
The finishing area will utilize linen separators and flatwork ironers from Chicago Dryer Co. and folders from Chicago® and Braun. Most of the equipment will be brand-new.
When the facility becomes operational next year, another hospital, St. Luke’s Magic Valley, will be added, generating another 1.5 million pounds. The laundry will then be processing 8.8 million pounds a year, with the capacity to handle 15 million pounds on the single shift.
St. Luke’s sometimes receives phone calls from other facilities in the region looking for laundry service, Rhodes says, and he expects the phone to ring even more often at the new plant.
“Once the doors are open, I’m sure there will be opportunities to expand that.”