August’s column (Industry Group Tackles Chore of Developing Best-Practice Standards) was devoted to the subject of the upcoming standards often referenced by Textile Rental, the Textile Rental Services Association of America’s (TRSA) magazine. A group of representatives from several industry associations, organizations and service providers is attempting to put together accreditation standards for healthcare laundry providers.
I suspect, from the feedback I’ve received privately, that my column’s true meaning was lost on some readers because of a story I shared about a laundry I thought of buying back in the mid-1980s.
The laundry has since changed ownership several times, and I’m sure it has cleaned up its act. The tragedy of this distraction is that it kept a number of readers from focusing on my true message. My column was designed to be in support of the standards development effort.
I believe that this is a genuine effort to set reasonable standards for laundries providing linen rental and laundry processing for the healthcare industry.
I want to clearly state for the record that there are institutional, co-op, shared-service, commercial and nursing home laundries now providing service to healthcare institutions that would have a hard time meeting regulations that clearly have real teeth in them. By “real teeth” I mean that the standards are developed around current best practices in our industry and define minimally acceptable practices.
I expect that if a true multidisciplinary group of managers and experts were put together that the process of defining best practices and minimally acceptable standards would take a long time to develop. Consensus building is not an easy thing, especially when the final result will, in my opinion, cause most laundries in all sections of our industry to stretch a little in order to reach them.
It can and will be a painful process but if the goal is to provide meaningful standards for these laundries to follow, then it is worthwhile.
There are, however, a number of readers and fellow institutional laundry managers who cast a jaundiced eye at this effort and simply see it as another jaded marketing effort by the commercial side of our industry. I say the proof will be in the final product.
If the final effort by this group is a set of standards that, if followed, will result in laundries providing at least minimally acceptable service for healthcare and clearly spell out best practices in each area of a laundry operation, then it will not be a marketing effort but one that has been needed in our industry for a long time.
I attempted in my prior column to point out an example of why these standards are needed. There are, in all areas of our industry, laundries that need to be improved either by changing management, upgrading facilities or closing them down.
I once consulted with a laundry that had a pile of soiled linen in its facility, about 7,500 pounds worth, that had been there for several months. The manager kept putting new linen into the system because it was easier to wash new linen than to deal with the linen that had been sitting around for so long.
This laundry had no clear division between clean linen and soiled linen. Upper management in this case chose to replace the manager and renovate the facility. The manager was not active in any association, which is often the case with a poor provider of service.
I have worked in and been a consultant to the institutional side of the laundry business for more than 30 years. It is the section of the business I know best. I have been accused over the years of always being pro-institutional laundry and anti-commercial laundry. I must admit to an inherent bias toward that section of the industry I know best.
Perhaps if I had been hired by that commercial laundry in Indianapolis back in the mid-1970s or if I had been able to buy that commercial laundry in Birmingham in the mid-1980s, I might have a different view of our industry.
Each section of our industry has its advocates. My bias, my personal history, does not make my factual statements any less true.
We have a chance to improve our industry by working together. I sincerely hope that this will be the end result of this effort.