Linen Hoarding A Real problem in Some Hospitals

A 2015 report from Becker’s Hospital Review cited statistics revealing that hospitals spend between 2% and 3% of their total budgets on laundry and linen services. According to the report, that is a significant reduction compared to previous years. Hospitals have implemented a number of procedural changes to help them better utilize their linens and subsequently cut costs. That’s good.

On the other hand, an article published in American Laundry News this past February details a very real problem now occurring in many healthcare facilities across the country. The problem is linen hoarding. It would appear as though some healthcare facilities are still spending more than they need to on linen services because certain departments are hoarding lines and, as such, keeping them out of the usable stock.

Contributor Matt Poe described a situation in which linens are being taken out of circulation and stored in places where they don’t belong. He cited one nursing unit where linens were found in warming units. He cited another example of linens being locked away in cupboards where they could be accessed by anyone with a key. Still another example was one of extra linens being stored on carts and then hidden away in patient rooms.

Possible Causes of Linen Hoarding

Poe went on to explain in his article some of the possible reasons for linen hoarding. When you look at the actual motivations, stashing linens away doesn’t seem so unreasonable. Hoarding is certainly not good for hospital supplies or budgets, but it’s not hard to understand why it occurs. For example:

  • Poorly Timed Deliveries – Whether a hospital does its own laundry or contracts with a linen service, nurses on the floor rely on housekeeping staff to provide timely deliveries of sheets, pillowcases, and towels. Linen hoarding can sometimes be traced back to nurse frustration over poorly timed deliveries that don’t keep their shelves fully stocked.
  • Insufficient Stock – There are other situations in which deliveries are regular and dependable, but stock levels are too close for comfort. It’s understandable that administrators don’t want excess stock on the floor, but sometimes they cut inventories so close that they are simply unrealistic.
  • Past Problems – Poe says that some cases of linen hoarding are the result of past experiences with poor service providers. A hospital may have dealt with a lousy linen company years ago, yet the memories of the bad experience still linger in the minds of nurses who lived through it.

Utah-based Alsco, the company that pioneered uniform and linen rentals back in the late 1800s, says that competent and reliable linen rental services are one of the keys to reducing linen hoarding. They also say that hoarding hurts their business just as much as it does the hospital or nursing facility.

When nurses are hoarding linens, they are taking those linens out of circulation. Facilities then request more stock from Alsco to make up for what seem to be shortages. Alsco ends up putting more stock in circulation even though there is plenty of linen being taken out of stock on the other end by hoarders.

It is good that hospitals have reduced the amount of money they spend on laundry and linen services. Every bit they can save slows down the ever-rising cost of healthcare delivery. Poe suggests facilities see if they can do even better by rooting out and stopping linen hoarding. Properly circulating linen and maintaining adequate supplies prevents the costly expense of locking away inventory and then asking for more from the linen company. It just makes sense.

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