04-Apr-2016 to 04-Apr-2016

Sandwich Fire Dept. Tests Needle, Medical Waste Disposal Machine

Cape Cod’s heroin crisis is producing what experts call a “secondary opioid crisis: the dirty needle epidemic.” Paraphernalia from drug addicts, however, is not the only dirty needle problem.

Sandwich Fire Department held a press conference last Friday morning led by Deputy Fire Chief John J. Burke, to announce the success of its six-month pilot program using a Sterilis machine to sterilize, grind, and render harmless dirty needles and other medical waste on-site.

Dep. Chief Burke, who is also associate director and professor of Boston University’s Healthcare Emergency Management Graduate Program, opened his remarks by pointing out that 80 percent of needle users, such as diabetics and those in need of B-12 injections, dispose of their needles properly. Of the 20 percent of needle users who are “non-compliant,” many have good intentions but simply don’t know where to dispose of their needles. This can be especially true of people who, following a growing trend, are receiving healthcare treatments at home. The result is that used needles are often stored in coffee cans or milk cartons, sometimes for months, thrown into household trash (potentially endangering anyone who handles or collects the trash) or flushed down toilets. This problem, in addition to the more publicized public health hazard of dirty needles left on school grounds, beaches, parking lots, and along roads, creates the crisis.

While approximately 100 needles are dropped off at the Sandwich Fire Station each week, many community residents are not aware that this service is available. Dep. Chief Burke, realizing the need for a better on-site disposal system, approached the Sterilis company six months ago about trying a pilot program to test the company’s machine at the fire station.

Sterilis, a Massachusetts-based company, spent about four years researching and developing its machine to process medical waste on-site. Usually placed in healthcare facilities, medical labs, small hospitals, and dialysis centers, this is the company’s first use of the machine at a community drop center.

Before Sterilis, when the fire department transported patients to Boston, medical waste would be disposed of at the hospitals there. When not going to Boston, bloody bandages and IV needles from local accidents, for example, came back to the station to be “red bagged” and stored in the 60-year-old, two-car garage at the station, before transport elsewhere. “We are in a floodplain,” said Dep. Chief Burke. “When a storm is coming, we have to worry about moving all the equipment but we also have, sitting in that garage at flood level, medical waste that could end up floating downstream in case of flooding. We would be liable for that.”

Bob Winskowicz, chief executive officer of Sterilis, explained with enthusiasm the effectiveness and efficiency of the Sterilis machine. “This is a seven-gallon vessel,” he explained regarding the pilot program. “Typical sharps containers are one and two gallons in size, so the machine can accommodate multiple containers. A typical red bag of bio-waste is five gallons, so the machine can accommodate one of those.”

The Sterilis steam-sterilizes needles and medical waste via an autoclaving system, which heats the waste to 132 degrees centigrade. The material is then released into a grinding mechanism that spits it out as “confetti,” which is completely safe to throw into the regular trash. The cycle is less than 60 minutes long and the machine is small (about the size of the photocopy machine at the fire department), portable, quiet, odorless, and simple. It has one plug.

The Sterilis machine is fail-safe with redundancies; nothing can be put into or taken out of the machine without the proper access code, and there is no risk to anyone using the machine at any time. One of the key components of the machine is that it tracks all required regulatory data in the WiFi system. “With cloud-based tracking of the waste,” Dep. Chief Burke said, “the old handwritten stuff is gone. I can log on and see how much waste we are generating, which is important from a regulatory point of view.”

At the fire station, the distance between the ambulance bay and the Sterilis machine is about 12 feet. Medical waste can be taken directly from the ambulance and dropped into the machine; it never touches the ground, and there is no need to store it. The same is true when members of the public drop off used needles—the needles are disposed of immediately. “Every June,” Dep. Chief Burke said, “we get calls from the three Sandwich schools asking us to pick up used needles from the many diabetic students in the school system. We used to have to take them to Spaulding; now we can dispose of them right here.”

Sterilis has lease-to-own programs available. State Representative Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich) mentioned the possibility of other Cape Cod towns using this on-site disposal system. Dep. Chief Burke agreed that it would be good to have on-site “hubs” in strategic locations around the Cape, as the Sterilis is a safe, efficient, and cost-effective way to dispose of medical waste at sites such as police and fire stations.


Read the orignal article from By KAREN B. HUNTER on Cape Cod News - here: http://www.capenews.net/sandwich/news/sandwich-fire-dept-tests-needle-medical-waste-disposal-machine/article_5ce67f1c-0fd6-574d-bed8-59c2cb931835.html