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Focus on safety: FOIL and piece-by-piece bed stripping

Mar 31, 2023

Categories: Linen Services, News

The Saskatchewan health-care system is on a mission to reduce foreign objects in linen (FOIL).

Medical equipment can be forgotten in bed linens.
Medical equipment can be forgotten in bed linens.

After a successful pilot project reduced FOIL incidents by 72 per cent, educational tools are being shared across the health system so that all health-care workers can help make a change for the better.

Any object found in used linens is considered a foreign object. Quite often these are harmless, like disposable masks, gloves, or tape. Personal items like mobile phones, jewelry, and dentures are also regularly discovered in linens. Even medical equipment can get caught up when a bed is being stripped. 

Of particular concern is the potential for sharps or other dangerous objects to get folded and stuffed into the linen. On average, K-Bro Linens, the province’s linen provider, receives nearly two-and-a-half pounds of needles per month, equal to about 54 needles, as well as 132 sharps. These 186 sharps/needles per month can lead to serious injuries and potentially long-term illnesses for workers handling the linen in the SHA facilities and at the K-Bro laundry plant.

Foreign objects can hurt employees handling the linen, ruin the products needed to care for patients, and cause costly delays and other impacts at the laundry processing facility. 

Making a change

A new education effort which focuses on reducing FOIL through single-piece bed stripping is being rolled out across the province. Health system workers will be able to use these materials, which resulted in a 72 per cent reduction in FOIL incidents at Regina’s General Hospital during a pilot project. These results should be repeatable across the provincial health system, keeping co-workers safe, ensuring patients’ belongings are not lost, and reducing the amount of medical equipment misplaced from a unit. 

For Jeanette Harkness, unit support manager with the SHA at the Regina General Hospital, the simplest solution lies in how staff strip the beds. 

“We consistently observe clinical and non-clinical staff remove linens from a bed by pulling the four corners up and rolling it into a ball. This is where foreign objects can pose a problem: being unable to visually spot potentially-dangerous foreign items and remove them.” 

She said the best way to keep fellow health-care employees safe and a units’ equipment where it belongs is to practice piece-by-piece bed stripping. This means taking things apart one piece at a time. This typically only takes 20 seconds longer on average and results in a much lower rate of FOIL incidents, guaranteeing that only linens go to the laundry. 

Employees and leaders can learn more by watching and sharing the instructional video and information items can be found here.

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