In a lot of hospitals in Africa the patient and bed laundry is still washed by hand. The laundry is thereby pre-washed with soap, then cooked in a big pot and post-washed with soap by hand.
Problems thereby are:
- Enormous water consumption
- Dealing with very infectious viruses and bacteria
- Consumption of lots of wood and coal for the laundry-pot
- Low throughput of laundry /day
In the case of an outbreak of infectious diseases the staffs is exposed to extreme conditions – the germs and the strong disinfectants. In the year 2000 two laundry staff members died of Ebola virus at St. Mary’s Hospital in Lacor, Uganda. The virus was transferred from the laundry to the employees.
Through the conversion of the laundry facilities – like BBM did already in a lot of different hospitals in Uganda- the running costs got less. Also, because of that, the risk of infection of the staff got less, but at the same time there was more laundry washed and a better quality, lower water and soap consumption. New concepts are always outworked with the hospital operator and the staff. That’s why every laundry looks a little bit different, but perfectly fitted to its hospital. Basic elements are:
- The solar hot water generation: the warm water / hot water is produced by solar collectors and with 85°C brought to
- An industrial and full automatic barrier-washing machine. The washing machine separates dirt and clean side and only washes with the amount of needed detergent. The water demand compared to hand washing decreases to a fraction (about factor 6). Like this an average of 100 kg laundry can be washed in 40 min. A thermic and chemical disinfection of the laundry ensures sterility.
- The laundry collection system: Like in the European hospitals with laundry collection trolleys and bags. This method prevents the infection of the nurses and the laundry staff. The bacteria proof bags are put closed into the machine and open by themselves in the machine.
The interaction of the different laundry-components creates a system, which can work daily.
The ecological components of a laundry towards the common hand washing are:
- Solar hot water systems: the heating of the water is done daily for free by the sun. For example, at the Matany Hospital around two Lorries full of firewood were needed only for the laundry. This reduction has a special meaning, because the forests in Africa are getting destroyed for firewood und won’t get reforested.
- The industrial washing machine: Electrical power is only used for the motor of the washing machine, because the heating is made with solar water. A high spin rotation causes an almost dry laundry and low dry times.
- The low water consumption: In most of the hospitals the water is pumped out of 100-150m deep wells. Every m³-water costs electrical energy. The less water needed, the more energy is saved by the pumps; additionally the groundwater level is saved.
- Less water means less wastewater. Because of the low water consumption the sewage plants don’t have to work that much.
The experience shows that complex systems like the laundry can be used several years. The key for this is a well practise local staff, regular service, the quick procurement of spare parts and the schooling of the operating personnel.