A British-era steam laundry unit at Govt. Stanley Hospital washes 100 pieces of linen at a time

Huge and nothing like modern-day washing machines — the steam laundry machines at Government Stanley Medical College Hospital have been in use for washing linen for close to 75 years.

The steam laundry unit consists of five washing machines, four hydro extractors to squeeze washed clothes, a four-roller ironing machine, a drying chamber and two boilers. “The hospital is 222 years old. These machines were manufactured in Britain and installed here before independence. Plenty of effort goes into maintaining the units,” said hospital dean, S. Geethalakshmi.

Hospital officials said they have to forge spare parts just to maintain the machines.

The unit is put to heavy use between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day. According to B. Jagadeesan, junior engineer in the steam laundry department of the hospital, each washing machine has a 100-kg capacity and can wash 100 pieces of clothing at a time.

“The washing machines carry a seal indicating they were made in Nottingham, England. They work on a reverse gearbox mechanism with a clutch,” he said.

Once the linens are washed, they are shifted to the hydro extractors and then to the drying chamber which has a steam pressure blower, and finally, to the ironing machine.

“Two boilers — one made in England and another in India — produce steam and provide supply to the machines through pipelines,” Mr. Jagadeesan said.

Only recently, the hospital installed a modern laundry unit, which consists of two washing machines, two hydro extractors and two drying chambers, to handle its increased bed strength and facilities.

Linen from the operation theatres located in the surgical block will be washed in the new laundry unit, while linen from other buildings will be washed in the old unit, Mr. Jagadeesan said.

“The new laundry unit has made the process of washing linen quicker. Now, the load is being shared between the old and new units,” the dean said.

The hospital’s bulk sterilisation machine, which can sterilise 100 instruments at a time, too belongs to the pre-independence era.

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