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The unique needs for varied medical waste disposal in nursing homes
In any sort of civilized and developed area, medical care becomes more than a luxury. The industry of caring for others encompasses a broad variety of situations ranging from accidents and injuries to illnesses and allergies. In each case, care both consumes resources and creates waste. This waste is anything used to treat an individual that is unable to be used again without risk of infecting another individual in some way. This translates to infections, but some do not realize that the unique balance of genetics and chemicals within the body can be infectious as well to others. In order to contain any possible issue, the majority of materials used to treat, heal, or assist an individual is disposed of. Much of that is determined to be biomedical waste, which is any kind of waste containing infectious or even potentially infectious materials. It also includes innocuous items such as packaging, unused bandages, infusion kits, and other laboratory items that are removed to ensure a sterile and safe environment for future care.
Another aspect would be ‘sharps,’ which are disposed of regardless of use or not in the very real case of their nature. Needles and blades that are easily capable of piercing the skin can not only spread infection, but create opportunities for such. Therefore, they are treated with great care and if even the possibility of infection is present, they are dealt with accordingly. Biomedical waste can be solid or liquid as well. In addition to the materials mentioned, it also includes materials like blood, microbiological cultures, portions of the body from tissue samples to portions that had to be amputated, and any bodily fluids. For the same reasons they are disposed of properly in a medical care environment, this form of waste is not handled by normal trash removal. To prevent further infection, it must be handled carefully and dealt with accordingly. Such requires specialized equipment and measures.
Generation of material
Perhaps less obvious are nursing homes where care is both immediate and done in-house. Nursing homes are specialized in that they allow older individuals to live with the security of knowing if a medical issue arises, care is already available. This means that while the population is far smaller, the same sort of care must be taken by the nursing staff. Often these individuals require personalized medication, and injuries are not unheard of for older individuals that are not as resilient as others. This increases the need to treat wounds, deal with medical issues, and be aware of how medication is both administered, and kept safe. Acting as a specialized healthcare facility as well as a living space creates the same issues with medical waste. While not as apt to create sharps beyond some needles for injections, bandages, bodily fluids, and infected or infectious materials are still created through the life of the residents.
Methods of disposal in Nursing Homes
The entire point of disposing of materials is to remove them from the area. However, this simply means moving them somewhere else. In order to truly dispose of materials is to make them both no longer a threat in any way, and to make them unrecognizable. This process will either drastically reduce any risks, or eliminate them entirely. Depending on the nature of the material, several methods are available. Biomedical waste is often incinerated, turning any infectious waste into ash. The controlled burning of chemical and biomedical or surgical waste is the most often used form, with some reports claiming up to 90% of medical waste being disposed of in this fashion. Some states prohibit this form of disposal because of the environmental impact, but other options do exist.
When incineration is not an option, another method is to use auto-claving. Autoclaves are sealed chambers that combine intense heat and pressure, occasionally steam as well, to sterilize medical equipment. Doing this will destroy any microorganisms on surgical waste, allowing the tools to be used again. This sterilization technique will destroy any living material, making it safe for further use, and preventing the waste from entering a landfill once dealt with. Such makes this method quite popular with labs and hospitals, as the materials can be reclaimed instead of disposed of and new being required. Because of this, strict measures are in place to ensure the safety of materials reclaimed from an autoclave such as extensive training for operators, and appropriate time to ensure sterilization for any biomedical waste.
When the waste is liquid, or small quantities of waste, a sterilization solution can be used to neutralize any and all biological presence. Often, a 1-10% solution of bleach can be used to disinfect the materials. Solutions of various disinfectants such as sodium hydroxide also may be employed depending on the nature of the liquid waste. Additional methods include the use of alkaline digesters to dissolve and destroy materials, or even the use of microwaves to instantly kill any living or infectious material. Regardless of how waste is neutralized, unless the autoclave is used to reclaim materials, a shredder of some sort is often employed to further destroy the material as a final step before being done with the disposal process. It is important to ensure that all possible steps are taken not only to remove the threat of infection, but also to keep from further injury to any individual that comes in contact. This means ensuring the sharps are destroyed as much as the infections neutralized.
Mass Medical Waste’s expertise
As a company dedicated to the disposal of medical waste, Mass Medical Waste is quite familiar with the methods and regulations of this industry. Currently, they are able to dispose of a variety of materials including sharps, infectious, pathological, isolation, pharmaceutical, and multiple other forms of material. As a fully licensed and insured company, they are careful to remain in full compliance with all federal, state, and local regulations regarding the disposal of hazardous materials. Operating throughout Massachusetts, their experience has provided a wealth of familiarity with the variety and breadth of materials that must be disposed of safely. This gives them an edge above others in understanding the nature of these materials and how to handle them.
Call us at 617-336-1300 for a quick, hassle-free estimate.