When it comes to operating costs at hospitals and medical facilities, every little bit helps.
For instance, making available and keeping tabs on operating room scrubs and linens on the ward.
Meditek, a family-owned Winnipeg hospital equipment distribution company that handles thousands of different products, now has automated equipment available for the the first time in Western Canada that addresses the issue of controlling linens.
Brad Samuels, the company’s marketing director, said he can’t recall ever receiving the level of interest that’s being expressed since the company introduced automated operating room scrubs and linen dispensing and receiving equipment.
Made by an American company called IPA out of Georgia that specializes in linen management technology, the equipment is widely used in the U.S.
Mid-sized hospitals in the U.S. that use it say they save about US$150,000 per year in reduced processing costs and missing product.
The problem the equipment, called ScrubEx and AlEx, tries to address is the unauthorized use of these products. The machines reduce processing costs because fewer scrubs and linens are used.
"The big problem is so much goes missing," Samuels said. "We recently talked to one woman in B.C. who said her husband (a surgeon) has a whole closet full of scrubs that they need to take back to the hospital."
It’s not about restricting the use of sterile scrubs and bed linens and towels, it’s about controlling access to only hospital employees.
Hospital swipe cards access the machines. For operating room scrubs, the users are responsible to return their tops and bottoms.
Samuels said there have already been high-level discussions about making the equipment available at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Alberta Health Services.
"Whenever we meet with hospital officials, it keeps getting pushed further up the chain," Samuels said.
"People are really interested."
There are two different pieces of equipment: one dispensing operating room garb, the other for linens and towels on the ward.
In the operating room, health-care professionals will have access to however many sets they need and are responsible for returning them. On the wards, rather than an open cart of linens that anyone can access, the IPA units are enclosed requiring hospital cards to access and when items are taken the laundry service is automatically notified as to how much is being used.
Meditek, with sales between $5 million and $10 million and close to 20 employees, has been in the business since 1981 with a customer base from coast to coast. It has the rights to distribute the ScrubEx and AlEx technology in Western Canada.
There are no other competing technologies on the market, Samuels said.
The ScrubEx surgical scrub dispenser has been proven to reduce replacement costs by up to 90 per cent and laundering costs up to 40 per cent, while the AlEx linen distribution system typically reduces replacement costs by 25 per cent and processing costs by 20 per cent.
Samuels said Meditek is providing a flexible payment model, letting hospital and health-care facilities either pay for the technology as a lease or on a monthly subscription basis with a plan to buy the units.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 at 7:38 AM CDT: Adds photos