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FOIL success replicated in Saskatchewan’s largest facilities

Dec 15, 2023

A push to increase safety and eliminate the loss of patient personal items and medical equipment is showing the big difference that one small change can make.

K-Bro's facilities receive many personal items and medical equipment in laundry shipments.
K-Bro's facilities receive many personal items and medical equipment in laundry shipments.

Earlier this year, an education campaign was launched to help reduce the number of objects found in health-care facility linens that should not be there (known as FOIL, or foreign objects in linen). Keeping foreign objects out of linen is an important aspect of Saskatchewan’s patient-first care philosophy. It prevents the loss of expensive medical equipment (preventing the need to spend taxpayer dollars to replace it) or patient belongings (cell phones, dentures, and jewelry are frequently discovered in linen), some of which never get claimed. It also ensures that medical facility and laundry facility staff are not injured by unseen objects like sharps and needles.

There’s an easy way to fix the issue: stripping bed linens one piece at a time to make sure nothing is caught or left behind. On average, piece-by-piece bed stripping only takes only a few seconds longer. Because staff at every level, in every type of facility, interacts with linen, this is a simple and extremely effective way to make sure everything is in its right place. 

That was the basis of an education campaign that included materials to help train workers across Saskatchewan. A pilot project was rolled out, and with the close collaboration and dedication of staff at the Regina General Hospital the number of FOIL incidents by 72 per cent. Testing, analysis, and improvement followed before the program was replicated at numerous facilities across the province.

Building on success

The results are equally encouraging. Targeting a reduction of 30 per cent in each facility, the average drop in FOIL incidents was more than 53 per cent. Major facilities in Regina and Saskatoon managed to cut the number of incidents by 72 per cent and 48 per cent.

Word of mouth also inspired Weyburn Special Care Home reached out to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), recognizing they needed to make a change. With the program in place, the rate of FOIL incidents dropped by an incredible 81 per cent, falling from one FOIL incident per 201 pounds of linen to one per 1,057 pounds.

“We are thrilled that this collaboration with health-care workers has eclipsed our targeted reductions,” said Kateri Singer, the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s (SHA) director of Environmental Services. “We are grateful to staff for recognizing the enormous difference this simple change can make, not only in the safety of staff, but also the peace of mind for patients and workers alike.”

An audited analysis of the data shows this work has resulted in increased safety for 2,916 Saskatchewan Health Authority employees and 160 workers at K-Bro Linen Systems.

How employees can help

The project team is now turning its attention to the next round of replications, aimed for 2024/25 at facilities of all sizes across Saskatchewan. Work will also begin on a sustainment plan that will help cement this learning into the future.

Employees and leaders can learn more by watching and sharing these instructional video and information items.

Dozens of personal items are collected at laundry processing facilities every month. The SHA’s Environmental Services team is also working on creating a process to get lost items back where they belong. More information will be provided once that process is in place, but if you suspect a personal item may have gone missing in health facility laundry, please contact K-Bro Linen Systems or SHA Environmental Services for help. 

Get in touch: If you would like more information, please email with your request. Thank you for reading this article.