Ebola Scare Underscores Importance of Waste Management, Disposal

Orig Post – FacilitiesNet | Re-Post 6/11/15

ebolaAnother area of an FM’s core competencies that is directly related to infection control effectiveness is waste management and disposal. Its importance was underscored by the recent Ebola scare.

One of the more critical lessons Gumeringer says he learned from the Ebola situation is to make sure waste-handling procedures and hauling contracts are in order and with the proper permitting. “We didn’t understand the sheer complexity of how you bag and sanitize waste and how you get it in drums,” he says. What’s more, because the waste is a special classification of infectious hazardous waste, a special permit must obtained from the Department of Transportation in order to haul it to an incineration site. So Gumeringer says he had to work with his waste disposal contractors to obtain the permit.

Texas Children’s didn’t have an Ebola case, so the permit is essentially a fail-safe for the future, but talking with waste hauling and disposal contractors to be sure they can handle infectious medical waste is a step Gumeringer recommends for all healthcare facility managers. “You should make that phone call to the regulated medical waste hauler and ask what their position is in regards to infectious medical waste,” he says. Gumeringer also says they realized there was a lack of space for storing these infectious materials before they’re removed, so they’re actually building a special containment unit for the waste.

At Geisinger, Neuner says the organization processes its own waste, so he checked with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection just to be sure the organization’s current process was stringent enough. It was. The waste becomes sterile, so it could be shipped directly out after it’s processed.

Both Gumeringer and Neuner stress the importance of working closely with the organization’s infection control department, not only in terms of creating policies and procedures for processing waste, but also for regular day-to-day activities, as well as special cases, like possible Ebola patients. They will be the first ones working with people on the patient-care side, says Gumeringer. And so, “The worst time to learn who they are is during a crisis,” he says. “The FM must understand this is part of a critical partnership. You must be very comfortable working with each other.”

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