Although, medical waste is generated from medical institutions such as hospitals, it still should be regarded as waste! All waste is waste, no matter the degree of toxicity or its matter formation; therefore, it is imperative that healthcare and medical institutions, waste handlers and the community at large, seek to ensure that it is treated, stored and above all, disposed of accurately.
Medical waste is waste derived from healthcare and other such medical activities (for instance; treatment, testing of biologicals, immunization of humans and animals, diagnosis); these wastes are usually generated in hospitals, clinics, blood banks, or other such health or medical related facilities. If they are not properly handled, they may ultimately run high risks of infections and may become hazards.
Medical Waste, Health Care Waste and Clinical Wasre are all interrelated. Medical Waste is indeed a very broad heading and comprise of a number of distinct, yet broad sub-headings which include sharps, cultures and stocks, pathological and anatomical waste, selected isolatation waste, pharmaceutical products (example drugs), human blodd/blood products or bodily fluids (swabs or dressings), excretions including animal waste or contaminated animal carcasses, bedding, chemicals and other waste called ‘regulated waste’.
Medical Wastes also include a variety of waste materials such as, diagnostic samples, discarded lancets, blood, blood-soaked bandages, culture dishes and other glassware, used needles and syringes and medical devices just to name a few.
In order to ensure that people are not at risk of contracting any illnesses, hospital personnel, waste handlers and the general public must try to maintain proper storage and disposal techniques.
Case in point syringes and needles. These materials should be placed into ‘sharps’ containers at all times. ‘Sharps’ containers are specifically created to handle and collect materials of such sort.
Medical Waste Management is the proper containment, storage, treatment and disposal of infectious waste generated at human and animal health care facilities. Acceptable Treatment Methods of Medical Waste are techniques or processes specially designed to alter the biological nature or structure/composition of medical waste. If this is done successfully, the wastes will no longer be infectious or biologically dangerous. See Biomedical Waste Regulations
The most effective and commonly used method of waste treatment is incineration. Medical Waste Incineration is the process whereby medical waste is treated thermally, (by heating methods) at extreme temperatures, in a controlled environment. A Medical Incinerator is a furnace or other closed fire chamber used to dispose of wastes generated at medical facilities by burning.
Another commonly accepted method and one practiced in Saint Lucia is by active steam sterilization. Active steam sterilization is the process whereby medical wastes are subjected to the pressures and temperatures of saturated steam inside a pressure vessel (steam sterilizer, autoclave retort).
There are other methods such as, microwave radiation, thermal inactivation and chemical disinfection though they not as popular as those previously mentioned, can be used.Additionally, it is imperative that the treatment operative is entirely aware that a successful sterilizing treatment involves an absolute understanding of the circumstances for sterilization; which vary according to load type and operating conditions.
Who Generates Biomedical Waste
Biomedical waste is generated by
· human or animal health care facilities,
· medical research and teaching establishments,
· health care teaching establishments,
· clinical testing or research laboratories,
· professional offices of doctors, dentists, and veterinaries,
· funeral establishments and
· mobile health care activities.
Who is at risk due to Biomedical Waste?
· General public
Why are they at Risk?
Due to the many risks associated with biomedical waste it is necessary that Biomedical Waste be handled, transported, stored, treated and disposed of properly in order to protect health care workers, waste haulers, environmental service workers and the general public.
Some of the Risks Involved?
· Risk of HIV infection and hepatitis due to needle-sticks
· Contaminated blood etc. contracting persons etc.
· Increased risk of nosocomical infections
· Change in microbial ecology
· Spread of antibiotic resistance
· Leaching of liquids associated with biomedical waste into the environment
· Aesthetic degradation of the environment
Some of the Treatment Options
· Incineration—burns thoroughly to ashes
· Steam/Autoclave technology – kills all biological life exposing the waste to high-temperature steam and pressure
· Microwave technology—disinfects the waste by bombarding the waste with microwaves
Management of Biomedical Waste
* Biomedical waste should be segregated from the general waste stream to ensure the special handling and treatment required for this waste.
* Persons handling biomedical waste should always use personal protective equipment.
* Sharps should be placed into a rigid and puncture-resistant leak-proof container dedicated specifically for that purpose.
* Other biomedical waste should be segregated into either a plastic bag or rigid container with a well fitted lid and labeled biomedical waste.
* All biomedical waste containers should be colour coded in red or yellow and clearly marked as containing biomedical waste.
* Store all biomedical waste in a designated biomedical waste storage area.
* Human anatomical and animal anatomical waste should be stored at a temperature at or below 4 degrees Celsius.
* Households are encouraged to place biomedical waste in rigid and puncture-resistant leak-proof containers.
* Containers should be taken to the closest health centre when full.
* Prior to transportation biomedical waste storage containers should be locked or closed such that biomedical waste is not released or discharged during transportation whether inside or outside the facility.
Treatment of Bio-Medical Waste
An island-wide collection service is offered to all government health care institutions and private institutions. This is facilitated through a private waste collection contractor who undertakes a weekly collection service at the major hospitals and a monthly collection service at health centres and polyclinics
All biomedical waste is treated at the steam sterilization unit housed at the Deglos Sanitary Landfill. The unit is an autoclave capable of achieving an 8 log 10 reductions and has a capacity of 90kg per hour. Sterilization is achieved by maintaining 138 degree Celsius at 3.8 bars for 10 minutes.
Following treatment, the biomedical waste is landfilled at the Deglos Sanitary Landfill.