Everyday around the word healthcare facilities benefit society by providing diagnosis, treatment, and wellness. Along with this care comes a hazardous fallout referred to as medical waste. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) refers to medical waste as “a subset of wastes generated at healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, dental practices, blood banks, and veterinary hospitals/clinics, as well as medical research facilities and laboratories. Generally, medical waste is healthcare waste that that may be contaminated by blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious materials and is often referred to as regulated medical waste”.
With a booming healthcare sector on a national and global level the question which repeats itself is, how to dispose medical waste safely and properly? In 2013 the EPA recorded that each hospital bed produces thirteen pounds of medical waste daily. Try and figure out how many beds there are in hospitals and times it by 365. This excludes nursing homes, medical practitioner’s offices, laboratories, tattoo parlors, and anything else under the sun which are healthcare waste generators.
To keep the equation simple, we are going to solely focus on hospitals in the US. According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), starting 2018 there were recorded a total of 5,534 hospitals. The total staffed beds registered in hospitals is an estimate of 894,574. Do the multiplication and you come up with a total of 4,244,753,630 pounds of medical waste annually. It’s for this reason that when reading medical waste news it consists mostly of stories about hospitals.
With all of this medical waste produced yearly how do medical waste companies like MedAssure safely handle and dispose of these bad elements?
One of the major elements of treating medical waste comes is the stage prior to it being received. Properly labeling is essential for the pickup service to know how to handle. When a sharps container gets in to the correct box it will be treated accordingly. However, if pathological or trace chemo gets marked improperly it’s illegal and could be lethal. Identifying medical waste wrong can result in a hefty fine. At the time the waste gets picked up the box is tracked with a bar code and could be traced back to the original facility.
Here is the process of how medical waste gets disposed and treated
STEP #1 After a patient is treated the medical waste is properly disposed in the correct container.
STEP #2 The medical waste hauler is scheduled to do a pickup according to the amount of waste generated and it gets delivered to the treatment facility.
STEP #3 Once the waste container is received it gets scanned into to a database. This tells us whats its contents are, how much does it weigh, and where is it coming from.
STEP #4 Then the waste bucket is taken by the operator which feeds it to the sterilization machine.
STEP #5 While the waste has begun the sterilization process the operator takes the used container to another machine which decontaminants it from any material or residue which poses a health risk.
STEP #6 As the waste moves through the machine it first encounters a very strong grinding process. The shredder is carefully designed to prevent blockage by waste. Its powerful routers will reverse if waste resits crushing.
STEP #7 Once the grinding process has been complete the elements should be less than an inch. The remaining solid and liquid waste is then routed to a microwave tunnel where it will be totally decontaminated. Its held in this hopper for approximately one hours at 212 degrees fahrenheit.
STEP #8 Now that the waste is finally safe it can be directed to waste container outside the facility. The medical waste is now reduced by 80% and can be used for building material such as cement.
One of the main challenges to waste companies is knowing what’s being sent in its trucks to the treatment facility. They rely on trusting the provider that the pickup ordered was done correctly. A even bigger issue arises when regular waste is thought to be picked up and then it’s revealed that it was medical waste.
On Sept. 29, 2017, three hospitals in Ventura County, sent untreated medical or pharmaceutical waste from blood-soaked medical supplies to intravenous tubes still containing medication to a Santa Paula-area landfill. It was only noticed that when one of the bulldozer operators noticed blood coming out of the back of their loads. Turns out that Kim Milstien, CEO of Ventura County Medical Center, said that it was an issue of items being placed into the wrong containers.
It’s important for medical facilities to get educated on the various types of medical wastes. Healthcare waste generators need to comply with government regulations and its staff must be certified and trained. Medassure offers an OSHA compliance program for $24.99, which has all the resources for getting educated on medical waste disposal. Employees will be able to complete the required training for Bloodborne Pathogens, HIPAA, Hazcom and DOT Training in less than an hour. The best part of this program is that it’s all online and could be completed after office hours.
With due diligence medical practitioners will protect themselves from hefty government fines by getting educated. The organizations which got penalizing are not in the news because of intended wrongdoing. Most often it’s because of not understanding the details of the waste type upon disposal. For the protection of the environment and our workers we recommend reviewing the material with your staff regularly. As a team the medical waste generator and hauler will be safe and secure.