Medical waste, also known as clinical waste, refers to biological products, which are essentially useless. Medical Waste Disposal is an environmental concern, as many medical wastes are classified as infectious or bio-hazardous and can spread infectious disease.
Medical Waste Disposal is the most fundamental and crucial step towards infection prevention in healthcare facilities. It is also the most neglected aspect of infection prevention. This article shall highlight the risks involved in improper handling of Medical Waste and explain the importance of proper Medical Waste Disposal techniques.
At any healthcare facility all staff have an equal responsibility to dispose off Medical Waste in a manner that poses minimal hazard to other healthcare workers, clients, visitors and the community at large. Good housekeeping is the foundation of good infection prevention. Good housekeeping reduces microorganisms, reduces the risk of accidents, and provides an appealing work and service-delivery space.
The advantages of proper Medical Waste Disposal are:
o Minimizes the spread of infections and reduces the risk of accidental injury to staff, clients, visitors, and the local community
o Helps provide an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere
o Reduces odors and other unpleasant sights.
o Attracts fewer insects and does not attract animals
o Reduces the likelihood of contamination of the soil or ground water with chemicals or microorganisms
WHO IS AT RISK?
Anyone who handles contaminated waste–from the time it is thrown out by a service provider to even after it reaches the site of final disposal–is at risk of infection or injury. In many settings, housekeeping staff may not understand their risks. It is particularly important for supervisors to ensure that these staff know their risks and follow the appropriate procedures. The following people face a very high risk of suffering from infections if Medical Waste Disposal is not handled properly.
Staff: A large percentage of staff report having experienced Medical Waste related injuries and or infections. Sharps (injection needles for example) pose the greatest risk and can cause injury and transmission of serious infections such as HIV and Hepatitis – B
Records show that US health-care workers suffer almost 400,000 needle-stick injuries every year that could expose them to blood borne viruses risking infection from transmittable diseases. If possible, all the staff at risk of sharp related injuries should be vaccinated against Hepatitis – B.
Clients: Staff members who have not effectively carried out Medical Waste Disposal can easily transmit the infection to clients.
Community: Improper Medical Waste Disposal is one of the greatest threats to members of the community. For example, contaminated Medical Waste can be found by children who are playing and cause them injury and infection. In many low-resource settings, scavenging of medical waste is a significant problem. Not only are scavengers at risk of injury and infection themselves, but this practice can also put clients and the local community at risk when scavenged waste, such as syringes and needles, is reused.
By educating staff, administrators, and the local community about the dangers of contaminated Medical Waste and by instituting low-cost, safe Medical Waste Disposal practices, all health facilities can minimize the risks associated with waste disposal.