FM Articles

Housekeepers to the Rescue


Astute hospital administrators know they must leave no stone unturned when it comes to reducing or at least slowing the rising costs to operate a medical facility. When it comes to the cost of housekeeping, managers typically focus on how many housekeepers work in the facility and the cost to employ these people. What is often overlooked is the supplies housekeepers use to clean and maintain medical facilities. Taking the roof off a hospital, we find there are a number of supply related opportunities housekeepers can select to help reduce operating costs. Below we list five of them:

Plastic Trash Liners
A chain of 46 hospitals has very little cohesion or standardization in what their individual hospitals purchase when it comes to supplies, even such basic items as trash liners. It is possible we are minimizing the costs of trash liners by calling them a “basic” supply item, and here’s why.

In a large chain of medical facilities such as this, there may be thousands of trash cans all lined with plastic liners. And what very often happens – and is sometimes required – is that the entire contents of a trashcan, including the liner, are disposed of each day. This means thousands of new plastic liners are installed into those liners.

Not only can this be costly, it certainly does not promote sustainability. In the latest version of LEED, V4, there is no requirement that managers select recycled plastic liners. Apparently, enough users of these products came forward complaining that recycled plastic liners lack the strength and durability of traditional liners to put the brakes on this decision. But here is the problem. Plastic liners can take years to decompose in landfills. They can find their ways into waterways where they suffocate aquatic life and do other harm.

To help promote sustainability and reduce the costs of liners, this hospital chain worked with a nationwide distribution organization with access to a free online “dashboard” system. The dashboard system was able to standardize the size and types of liners used in the facility so that the hospital could purchase large amounts, in bulk, at a reduced cost. It made sure the plastic liners selected were the right size. Too small or too large a liner usually means the liner must be disposed of sooner, which adds to costs and certainly does not promote sustainability. Further, it helped administrators develop a trash liner disposal program: wet or contaminated plastic liners are always disposed of daily; dry liners are allowed to be re-used. The chain enjoyed a costs savings of $200,000 annually.

Comfort or Costs
When it comes to selecting toilet paper, the softer and more comfortable the paper is to use, the more it is made with virgin pulp and less recycled products. This means the paper is typically more costly. Housekeepers should be provided with toilet paper made from post-consumer content. It costs less and helps promote sustainability.

Paper Products and Dispensers
Similar to the toilet paper just mentioned, housekeepers should select unbleached, recycled paper products. These are the most cost effective and promote sustainability. But wait, there’s more. Electric paper dispensing systems offer a variety of dispensing options. They can dispense one towel at a time, for instance. According to some reports, this reduces paper waste by more than 30 percent. The dashboard system mentioned earlier can help housekeeper select these types of dispensers.

Reduce Waste
We’ve already discussed ways to reduce liner and paper waste. However, the bigger picture is that medical facility administrators must work with housekeeping departments to reduce all waste. Many medical facilities must pay waste removal fees. These may average around $60 per ton. Finding ways to reduce waste can become quite baffling at first but typically it involves such things as identifying what products can be recycled (paper, cardboard, etc.); storing records electronically and not using paper to eliminate the need to shred confidential information; and looking for waste items that can be sold. For instance, cardboard can often be sold. This helps reduce waste removal fees and allows medical facilities to actually make a little money on their cardboard waste.

Auto Dispensing System
While many medical facilities now have auto dispensing systems for cleaning solutions, very often they re-fill sprayers manually because it is faster. Here’s the problem. Invariably this results in too much chemical being used – which is wasteful, costly and may negatively impact the cleaning ability of the solution – or not enough is being used, which also can have a negative impact on the cleaning and overall health of the facility. In fact, the over use of some cleaning solutions such as sanitizers and disinfectants as a result of not using an auto dispensing system can have a major impact on a hospital’s bottom line. Work with your distributor or use a dashboard system to select auto dilutions systems to help prevent this costly waste.

Michael Wilson is vice president of Marketing for AFFLINK, a global leader in supply chain optimization, and developers of ELEVATE®, a free online technology that provides clients with innovative procurement solutions to drive efficiencies in today’s leading businesses. He can be reached thru his company website at