Elected leaders are pulling out all the stops in the fight against COVID-19. In many cities, like Chicago for example, they are opening shuttered hospitals in hopes of having the necessary beds and treatment rooms to handle the influx of patients. Doing so might be unavoidable, but it places a higher demand on tertiary industries along the supply chain. Commercial laundries are a good example.
This post assumes that hospitals would not attempt to revive in-house laundry operations in order to launder hospital linens and employee uniforms to cover a short-term emergency. Thus, it is expected that newly reopened hospitals would rely on commercial linen providers like Utah-based Alsco.
The best of the best are fully capable of providing an ample supply of hospital linens and uniforms under normal conditions. But are they capable of handling the increased demand reopened hospitals will place on them? No one knows. All we can do is wait to see what happens.
A Chain Reaction Scenario
If there is one thing COVID-19 has taught us, it is the fact that very few aspects of modern life exist in isolation. Virtually every action sets off a chain reaction up and down the line. COVID-19 has already caused an economic chain reaction that will likely end up in a significant recession, at the least, or a potential depression in a worst-case scenario.
There are plenty of other chain reactions that would be perceived as negative. But there are some positives as well. Increased demand on commercial laundries is but one. Every commercial laundry in the country is a business. Each one exists for the purpose of making money. That money is returned to the economy as employees are paid and companies invest in supplies and other assets.
Commercial laundries may end up having to hire more employees just to keep pace with higher demand. That means at least some new jobs to make up for others that were lost to coronavirus. And with any luck, the operators of the reopened hospitals will discover the benefits of outsourcing their laundry and continue to use their linen providers even after their temporary facilities close.
Hygienically Clean is Key
MetroSouth Medical Center in suburban Chicago is just one of many community hospitals that may be reopened in the fight against COVID-19. Assuming the doors do open and they contract with a commercial laundry to supply their healthcare linens, there is suddenly a new priority for providing healthcare linens: said linens must be certified hygienically clean.
Certified hygienically clean linens are linens that arrive from the laundry facility free of microbes and pathogens. Becoming certified is not easy. It requires that commercial laundry providers submit samples of their products for three rounds of rigorous testing over a predetermined amount of time. Laundry providers must also submit to on-site plant inspections to ensure that processes are in place for maintaining continuity of service.
Choosing to reopen closed hospitals in order to fight COVID-19 suggests that administrators should insist on nothing less than certified hygienically clean linens. The last thing they need is for soiled linens to go out to be laundered, only to be returned still contaminated with pathogens.
Up to the Task
COVID-19 is testing the resolve and capabilities of businesses and individuals alike. It will continue to do so for as long as the virus remains a problem. Is the commercial laundry industry up to the task? We will soon find out. Reopening shuttered hospitals will put a heavy demand on the industry by increasing the demand for hygienically clean healthcare linens and clinical uniforms.