Many of Parkland's continuous batch washers, also called tunnel washers, house up to 14 chambers to handle different tasks.
Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas, transferred its main hospital operations to a new facility back in 2015, but its old building still has a great purpose despite no longer serving in a clinical capacity.
Beneath the old hospital, there is a constant hum from massive washing machines that contain as many as 14 chambers, each with a different cleaning purpose and capability; dryers that can hold loads up to 200 pounds; and a recycling system that reuses about 10 million gallons of water annually, conserving both water and energy.
More than 60 employees oversee this mostly automated operation, making sure that these and other technologies that sort, wash, dry, iron and fold bed linens, gowns, scrubs, towels and other linens keep the giant hospital system — which not only includes its main 862-bed hospital but a network of specialty and outpatient facilities — stocked with linens.
Despite the impressive tech-driven operation, the hospital believes that there are still some things that require a distinctly human touch.
Phiefee Brooks has been working in Parkland’s laundry department for nearly 26 years. She sews and mends sheets, blankets and other linens in her work room with the help of three sewing machines and a serger. When she first began working at Parkland, her job title was seamstress. Now she holds the title of inspection and repair technician, but she maintains that the mission of her position hasn’t changed.
Phiefee Brooks started in Parkland's environmental services department and has worked in the hospital's laundry department as an inspector for almost 26 years.
“I know exactly where everything is and what I’m supposed to do with each item,” she says. “It’s my job to determine if a cloth or gown can be repaired or whether it needs to be thrown out. If it can be mended, I patch, sew or cut it so that it can be used again.”
Not only does she repair mountains of linens that reach her sewing room every year but, on occasion, she has been asked to create custom-made articles. When conventional hospital gowns do not fit properly, Brooks crafts a gown to fit. She makes covers for the laundry carts that are used to carry soiled and clean laundry and linen between the laundry department and new hospital. She even sewed the first anti-contamination curtains that hung outside the old Parkland emergency department entrance many years ago.
Overall, Brooks is part of an operation that each day churns out 5,250 bed sheets and 6.5 million pounds of supplies each year.
“Our biggest challenge is balancing the need to work quickly while also maintaining quality. We have to be extremely fast, making sure that everything is clean and ready to distribute on time while also ensuring cleanliness and safety for all our patients,” said Jay Dyck, Parkland's linen services director. “Phiefee’s work for our department is invaluable. She is extremely thorough in sifting through the enormous volume of linen to determine what can be salvaged and repaired, and then taking care to reclaim those items.”