The Articlean ozone system at Pratt Regional Medical Center works in concert with its E-Series washers to ensure laundry sanitization is achieved.

Image courtesy of Continental Girbau

After outsourcing laundry for years with mixed results, Pratt Regional Medical Center (PRMC) in Pratt, Kan., began looking for a solution that would help it achieve more consistent results in terms of cost and cleanliness. 

Paul Carrington, PRMC’s director of quality and infection control, would regularly measure cultures on its outsourced finished linens using an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) test to measure residual organic debris and microbes.

“When outsourced, it was common to have finished linen with measurements of ATP in the range of 30 to 60 relative light units (RLU),” Carrington says. “An acceptable level for hard surfaces is less than 25 RLU.”

Carrington decided it was time to look for something new and began exploring a strategic move to bring its laundry operations in-house. He sought the expertise of Matt Samms and Brian Asher of Commercial Laundry Sales and Service, a full-service laundry equipment distributor in Wichita, Kan.

“Matt and his team were very helpful at every stage,” Carrington says. “They came on-site and discussed laundry usage, workflow and equipment.” 

PRMC invested in an existing commercial laundromat in the community and reconfigured it with a new hospital-grade layout for private use. The medical center outfitted the space with programmable Continental Girbau E-Series washers (one 30- and two 60-pound capacity models), ProDry2+ dryers (three 75-pound capacities) and an Articlean ozone system.

To ensure all laundry is properly sanitized, an Articlean ozone system works in concert with the E-Series washers to automatically combine ozone and cold water. The washers are high-speed, soft-mount machines, which don’t require bolt-down. Their high extract speeds remove more moisture from every load, which shortens dry time by as much as 50%. This results in improved productivity and lower natural gas costs.

Each washer, which is programmed for specific items — incontinence pads, sheets, blankets, gowns or towels — precisely controls every aspect of the wash cycle, including water temperature, number of baths and rinses, wash rotation speed and duration, water levels, bath cooldown and extract speeds. Detergents, softeners and ozone are automatically injected into the wash cycle at the right time and water temperature according to the program selected.

During the wash cycle, the disinfection monitoring package (DMP) automatically verifies that disinfection parameters and pre-established washing requirements are performed without error. If something goes awry, the DMP alerts Carrington with an alarm.

Once washed and sanitized, linens are transferred to the “clean” side of the laundry and dried using the laundry’s ProDry2+ moisture-sensing dryers. Then they are hand-folded and loaded into clean carts for distribution at the hospital.

The other DMP benefit is its seamless integration with Sapphire, a remote, cloud-based laundry management system.

“I pull up Sapphire each day and can see delays between starting and ending cycles, the length of cycles and how to maximize efficiency,” Carrington says. “We were washing the large flat items, like sheets and blankets, in all of the machines with a 45-minute cycle length. But I saw through Sapphire that it was delaying all of the shorter-cycle items like towels and comforters. By designating one washer for flat items, we were able to get in more cycles in an eight-hour shift.”

Carrington continues to conduct ATP tests regularly on cleaned textiles, and the results have greatly improved since bringing laundry operations in-house.

“With the new laundry, our numbers are between zero and three RLU. I’ve done microbiologic cultures as well, and they are coming back with nothing.”

Another plus is that the whole process costs significantly less than outsourcing.

“With every cost variable calculated in, we achieved return on investment in just 18 months,” Carrington says. “When we outsourced, we paid $1 per pound. Today, our cost per pound varies between 35 and 50 cents.”