$48M Hospital Laundry Facility in Detroit Helps Battle Pandemic

hospital laundry facility
A shared laundry facility in Detroit is now serving Henry Ford Health System, Michigan Medicine, and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. // Photo courtesy of Michigan Medicine

Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System, Ann Arbor’s Michigan Medicine, and Canton Township’s Saint Joseph Mercy Health System today unveiled their $48 million Detroit-based shared laundry facility to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The eco-friendly, 115,000-square-foot facility has the capacity to service 78 million pounds of health care items including personal protective equipment like facemasks, gloves, and gowns are lifesaving must-haves for health care providers. It also cleans linens, bed sheets, blankets, pillowcases, scrubs, and towels for both inpatient and outpatient use. It’s also one of the largest shared medical laundry facilities in the country and is more than double the size of the previous laundry plant. Both its size and capabilities are expected to save the facility significant amounts of money and better meet the needs of the three health care systems.

“Our collaboration is a true model for how health care institutions can work together to achieve efficiencies and spur economic renewal in our region,” says Bob Riney, president of health care operations and COO for Henry Ford. “Laundry service is critical to our everyday operations for our patients and team members, and this investment will have meaningful impact for years to come.”

Since its opening on June 1, the facility has been running two shifts over a six-day work week and is on track to service about 34 million pounds of laundry by the end of the year. This includes a new piece of apparel, a washable medical gown that will extend the supply for frontline workers with its ability to be washed 100 times before being discarded.

“Laundry may not seem like an exciting thing, but this project is so good for our city in so many
ways,” says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “It’s making sure our front-line health care workers and the patients they serve have gowns and linens cleaned to the highest standards as we battle COVID-19. It also has taken another parcel of vacant land and put it back to productive use that benefits the community and employs more Detroiters.”

The facility combines automated technology and sustainable initiatives to minimize operating costs and environmental footprint. Laundry bags are moved on a monorail system, and a wastewater heat reclamation system captures heat from wastewater and uses it to preheat fresh water, reducing natural gas consumption. The system recycles water while using less than a gallon of water per pound of linen washed; conventional home washers use an average of 3 gallons of water per pound of linen.

The facility is owned and operated by the Metropolitan Detroit Area Hospital Services, a Michigan nonprofit corporation, and employs about 150 workers. With MDAHS issuing $48 million in bonds to finance the facility, no government funds were used to finance construction.

Henry Ford acquired the vacant 10-acre industrial property in 2017 after discussions for a new shared laundry facility began in 2016 with a commitment to keeping the facility in Detroit. Construction began in 2019 and was completed on-schedule in the spring of 2020.