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3 Steps for Medical Waste Management in Nursing Homes

Did you know that according to the demographic statistics of the United States, about 70 million Americans will be at the age of 65 years and over by 2030? No, it’s not your imagination that nursing homes have been sprouting up at a steady pace to keep up with present and future needs. People incorrectly classify medical waste generated by nursing homes as home-generated or household medical waste—which has non-regulated procedures for disposal. However, most states classify nursing homes as an institution providing healthcare to the community, and therefore are required to comply with both state and federal laws in the disposal of medical waste. Regulated Medical Waste (bio-hazardous waste) is defined as medical waste that contains blood, bodily fluids or other infectious material that risk contaminating other objects and the wider community (Source: Healthcare Environment Resource Center). DISPOSAL PROCESS OF RMWs FOR NURSING HOMES STEP ONE All nursing homes and any medical facility need to have a proper medical waste management program in place. This can decrease the amount and costs of medical waste generated at the facility. It is important to clearly indicate to staff and residents the correct items that are suitable for recycling and for medical waste. Since any recyclable items that have come into contact with regulated medical waste materials will have to be treated and disposed of properly. STEP TWO The next step is to properly store contaminated medical waste. If your nursing home doesn’t have its own treatment facilities, a regulated medical waste hauler can transport the RMWs. All medical waste must be stored in a manner appropriate to the type of waste:
  • Sharps (inclusive of needles, syringes, lancelets, etc.) must be contained in metal containers with a secure lid, or a ‘sharps’ container, which as the name suggests, is a container suitable for such material. These containers must be kept out of reach, and/or placed in a secure area.
  • Medical gloves, bandages, sheets, etc. should be secured in a plastic bag.
  • Nursing homes are encouraged to speak with their medical waste service providers to provide the use of clean and reusable containers to the facility.
  STEP THREE Nursing homes are required to employ the use of medical waste transporters or haulers to properly transport and dispose of regulated medical waste. The haulers will deliver properly packaged medical waste to treatment facilities and will then be transported to a disposal site. Nursing homes not only have a responsibility to the elderly and others needing healthcare assistance, but they have a responsibility to their staff and the wider community by ensuring that a proper medical waste management program is in place. By following the steps above, a nursing home can see a reduction in medical waste disposal costs and a decrease to risks of infection.