Seeking closure: Provincial linen services addresses a sticky issue

August 20, 2019

Some “outside-of-the-province” thinking has resulted in a significant decrease in defective surgical linens across the province.

In recent years, quality checks had been turning up a number of laundered surgical gowns and other linens rendered unusable by a stubborn, sticky residue left by the tape used to bundle surgical products.

This particular kind of surgical sterilization tape is used by health-care facilities primarily because it is engineered to change colour to indicate when the enclosed linens have been properly sterilized.
 
In order to securely bundle the linens, though, a significant amount of the tape was needed. And that was creating a sticky issue.
 
“We’d have all this residue stuck on (the surgical linens) from the glue on the tape, and it wouldn’t wash off,” explains 3sHealth provincial linen services director Jim Crawford. “You can’t have that residue. Though it does not pose a health and safety risk, it doesn’t meet CSA standards.”
 
Initial attempts to find and introduce a different kind of tape were complicated by existing contracts between health-care organizations and their various providers.
 
“It was really difficult to get some sort of standard product,” Crawford says.
 
After several months of investigation and discussion, provincial linen services, along with provider K-Bro Linen Systems, began looking for potential solutions outside Saskatchewan’s borders.
 
“We got to the mindset of ‘Let’s think outside the box and look at what other jurisdictions are doing across North America’,” Crawford says. “We couldn’t be the only people having this problem.”
 
It was not long after that before a potential solution emerged: an elastic closure that could securely bundle surgical products, greatly reducing the amount of sterilization tape needed on each bundle.
 
“Other surgical linen pack providers across Canada use this product,” Crawford says. “We didn’t need to change the tape – it was much easier to change the elastic closure.”
 
In February 2018, K-Bro began using elastic closures in its surgical-linen bundling. During ensuing months, the results were unmistakable: a significant decrease in defective surgical linens – specifically, a decrease in residue-related defects.
 
“Since we started using the elastics, I have noticed a huge decline on tape residue that has been left on the wrappers. Less tape residue means better product for our health-care facilities,” says Barb Lewis of K-Bro.
 
Sometimes it really is the little things that make the greatest difference. As Crawford says, “we just needed to change our mindset and stop trying to solve something that’s already been solved.”

 


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