The correct disposal of clinical waste is a critical part of running a medical facility. Whether you manage a small clinic or a large county hospital, correct protocols need to be established to ensure contaminated dressings, sharps, and other waste materials are taken care of in an appropriate way. Read on to learn more.
Different Types of Hospital Waste
Hospital waste must be correctly categorized before waste management protocols are put in place. It is typically categorized in four ways:
- Sharps waste
- Infectious waste, such as waste from cancer treatments, used PPE, etc.
- Anatomical waste e.g., amputated limbs
- Redundant medicines, drugs, etc.
Once the waste has been correctly categorized, it is dealt with in a specific manner.
Sharps and Anatomical Waste
Sharps must be dealt with very carefully, to avoid injuring medical personnel and patients. Hospital waste disposal equipment is supplied by a waste management company in the form of sealed sharps bins. Used syringes, lancets, and needles are placed in a sharps bin. Once the bin is full, it is collected and transported to a medical waste management facility.
Anatomical waste is also placed in plastic bins to avoid contamination.
Drugs past their use-by date or no longer needed must be categorized into hazardous and non-hazardous waste (hazardous drugs contain cytotoxic chemicals). These will be stored in separate bins before being collected by a waste management company.
Worn PPE such as face masks and surgical gowns are normally bagged up on-site before being removed and disposed of.
What Happens Next?
There was a time when medical waste generated by hospitals was incinerated on-site, but this proved to be problematic for many reasons, not least the level of pollution emitted.
Today, hospital waste is usually dealt with by private contractors. They supply the waste bins and bags needed, collect used bins and bags on a pre-determined schedule or on-demand, and transport everything to a special medical waste management facility. There, waste is heat-treated and/or incinerated. Some waste is transferred to a transfer station first, before being disposed of later (usually within 30 days).