MedicalSearch spoke to Jenny Barton at examination bed sheet supplier WinC about the benefits of using fabric bed linen over disposable bed linen at medical practices.
Some surgeries use disposable linen or none at all – what issues could this present?
Jenny Barton (WinC): With the advent of modern technology and gamma radiation sterilisation there was a real shift from reusing anything medical. Glass became a thing of the past, and wash rooms and sterilising rooms that once were a hub of activity, sterilising, washing, recycling and then resterilising, now lie relatively quiet. Everything is plastic, prepacked, and disposable. This spilled over into the linen for examination beds.
The disposable woven sheets which can be purchased relatively cheaply were seen as a real alternative where they can be changed between every patient. There are certainly areas within the medical profession where this is not only desirable but necessary during procedures that result in soiling of linen.
The whole lot can be gathered up and disposed of in clinical waste bins. However, the down side to this disposable linen is that the sheets are thin, often very ill-fitting, are as attractive as disposable hair net hats, and result in massive amounts of waste. They also tend to be slippery on the beds which could pose a problem in itself.
Many clinics now choose to use no sheets on their examination beds, simply spraying and sanitizing between patients. This is done due to costs of firstly purchasing linen, laundering or disposal costs. The vinyl is certainly not the most comfortable surface to lie on, and many vinyls discolour after continuous contact with sweat, cleaning and sanitising product and is cold to lie on. Every surgery today would be air-conditioned but if not then vinyl becomes very hot and sticky in summer leading to great discomfort.
Is there a shift back toward fabric linen? Why?
There are areas of medical practice where disposable linen is here to stay and the perfect product for the job it is used for.
However, as mentioned before the down side to disposable linen is that the sheets are often very ill-fitting, are not attractive, and result in massive amounts of waste. They also tend to be slippery on the beds.
Also, many doctors want to portray a very professional image and good quality, well-fitting sheets are part of that. Why spend a fortune on décor and then fall down on the actual item that gives the patient greater comfort and security when lying down in a surgery?
Our fabric linen will not slip around the bed, even as the patient twists from lying to sitting. One of our clients purchased fabric linen after finding the beds too cold when they tried just sanitised vinyl.
Our fabric sheets are well made and will last for years. If the initial outlay seems high they can be purchased in lots and the practice changed over in stages. The cost, even with laundering factored in would work out cheaper in the long run.
As people become more environmentally aware they are conscious of the amount of clinical waste they are producing. Fabric linen is the easy solution to this problem.
What are the main advantages of using fabric linen?
Durability – will last for years. This makes it very cost effective.
Professional – image whilst not everything certainly plays a big role in the success of a practice. If this was not true, then no money would be spent on logos and the like.
They can be made in corporate colours which is becoming increasingly popular as people move away from the traditional 'medical/ colours
Reduces waste – fabric can be laundered over and over.
As practices now become multi-faceted, the linen can be colour coded with each particular doctor having their own colour. Or exam bed sheets can be made in one colour, modesty sheets in a different complimentary colour and the pillow cases in another. This allows for easy sorting, storing and use.
What are the main disadvantages?
Initial cost – but this can be overcome by doing it in stages. For practices with heavy soiling it may pose a problem.
What is your advice to a medical practice weighing up the benefits of fabric linen?
Fabric linen really adds to the professional image of your practice. The linen is well made – custom made in fact – and very durable.
Today, every examination bed seems to be a different size. This is one way of getting a well-fitting sheet for each of your beds in the colour you require.
It is a cost effective way of looking after the comfort of your patients.
If you are worried about whether quality fabric linen is value for money, talk to those who already use it. The service is also ideal for isolated practices as orders are able to be placed by email, made up and posted to the practice.