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Waste Management is an Important Step for Infection Control


When thinking about infection control in healthcare facilities, disinfection of touch surfaces, air filtration, and proper hand-washing policies leap to mind. But another area which is important to infection control, and the responsibility for which lies squarely with the facility management department, is waste management and disposal.

First, facility managers should take steps to ensure that waste-handling procedures and hauling contracts are in order. A close working relationship with the waste disposal contractor is desirable. In the event of a sudden and unexpected situation, such as the recent Ebola scare, the healthcare facility may need particular permits in order to haul infectious hazardous waste to an incineration site. Facility managers can work with their waste disposal contractors to obtain such permits. Facility managers should also have a frank conversation with the waste hauling and disposal contractors to be sure they can and will handle infectious medical waste that differs from what the facility would normally generate.

Next, assess the facility's capacity. If the facility processes its own waste, is the current process in place suitable and stringent enough to address the type and volume of materials that would be generated if the healthcare facility were treating an unexpected outbreak of a highly contagious and dangerous disease? Is there a suitable and ample enough storage facility on site to store the infected waste materials while they're awaiting pickup, in the case where the waste is not sterilized on site? Such an evaluation should be made and addressed well ahead of a crisis.

Experts recommend facility managers work closely with their organization's infection control department to create and evaluate waste processing policies and procedures, both for everyday operations and in emergency situations. The working relationship between the two departments should be well established and robust, as this will be a critical partnership in a time of crisis.

For more on infection control in healthcare facilities, go here.

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