By Samskruthi Parthasarathi
While most of us realize the importance of waste collection, collection and disposal to its final destination brings up several implications to consider. ILC is unique in its service offerings as we have experience with waste management and removal. If you are a health care facility, below is an introduction to how we can provide logistical equipment, transport and management to meet your unique needs.
Waste from health care facilities can be disposed of on-site or offsite. In both situations, the supply chain matters. First, the amount of waste has to be studied and quantified and decisions must be made on what gets moved and to where. At this point, intermediate storage may or may not be required before the waste gets treated or moved. Finally, transportation must be chosen while taking into account costs and efficiency. During the entire process, special attention must be given for the health and safety of workers as well as their equipment, supplies and their training. Here are the three stages of planning in further detail.
- The amount of waste, or waste flow, that health care facilities generate per day may be measured by volume (usually in cubic meters) or weight (usually by kg). Depending on where the waste is headed (a landfill will measure by volume, an incinerator by weight), it is essential to know how much is occurring during a given time period. Your logistics provider will need to study and be aware of these numbers to ensure there are adequate incinerators or that waste does not pile up over time. Knowing the amount of waste is the first step in planning either on site storage or transport of waste. A knowledgeable logistics provider can guide you on costs and use a decision tree to ensure efficient allocation of waste in the right place.
- Why do facilities choose to store waste on site when this would obviously pose a space and organizational challenge? The quantity of waste generated must be sufficient to justify transport costs. It follows that smaller health care facilities usually transport waste straight to the final destination but larger facilities will require storage. In places without proper roadwork or infrastructure, keeping it on site for later treatment in pits or incinerators is sometimes the only option. Even approval to dispose of waste can take longer than expected at some facilities leading to storage in the meantime. In all of these situations, storage of waste calls for special measures. Not only must hazardous waste be kept in a secured and locked area but it should also be recorded accurately and kept track of. Staff must be trained to handle the waste and small details. Health care facilities require separation of needle from syringe, sharp waste to be separated and hazardous waste to be disinfected before further treatment. Carcinogenic materials must be disposed of according to specific WHO guidelines. At some facilities, due to close quarters, strict standards must be enforced so that there is no mixing with storage of unused and new medicines and equipment. If these operations are not correctly managed, it will interrupt or impact other functions and spaces of the health care facility.
- Finally, transport to the final destination must be agreed on with regards to cost and times. Deciding on the optimum way waste must be moved depends on financial, labor, terrain and location factors and even regulatory constraints. A hospital needs daily pickup of waste and at all facilities, hazardous waste cannot be kept for more than 48 hours. Your logistics provider also needs to make sure transportation meets proper collection guidelines. General waste must be separated from hazardous waste and dedicated vehicles may be needed to prevent spillage and make disinfection easier. In some instances, hazardous and general waste must be in completely separate vehicles and vehicles themselves must be disinfected after use. Questions to ask your logistics provider are the size of vehicles and containers and whether there are any local or government policies that put a limit on these specifications.
Supply chain considerations for health care facilities are wide ranging and complex. Each facility will have its own regulations and policies. In addition, protecting workers, the facility’s community and the environment is a priority. We believe that no matter the country or the conditions, it is always possible to ensure safe and effective waste removal through proper management.