06-Apr-2016 to 07-Apr-2016

Pilot project uses device that sterilizes and grinds discarded 'sharps.'

 

SANDWICH — It’s a little bigger than a photocopier, has a drum inside like a washing machine, hums like a dishwasher and could just be the answer to the scourge of spent hypodermic needles littering the landscape amid the Cape opioid crisis. Sterilis, a Massachusetts-based company, has created technology that takes used needles, sterilizes them and then grinds the “sharps” into a harmless batch of confetti. The cycle takes about 60 minutes. “What comes out of there is one of the cleanest things you’re going to find in your trash bin,” said Robert Winskowicz, CEO of Sterilis Medical. The device was created with hospitals and medical offices in mind, but the Sandwich Fire Department has been part of a pilot program using the machine since September. On Friday, the company and fire officials demonstrated its use for a small group that included Barnstable County Special Sheriff Jeffrey Perry and state Rep. Randy Hunt, R-Sandwich, who both walked away impressed with the technology and its potential to save money while providing a safe way to dispose of needles.

 

“I’m going back to ask our CFO how much we spend to dispose of medical waste,” Perry said. The sheriff’s department has inmate work crews that find hundreds of needles as they clean up roadways and homeless campsites, he said. Robin Lord, a spokeswoman for Cape Cod Healthcare, wrote in an email that neither Cape Cod Hospital nor Falmouth Hospital uses the technology. The machine costs $35,000 and comes with a five-year warranty, Winskowicz said. Since waste typically has to be trucked off-site to an incinerator, the machine could ultimately be a more cost-effective way to dispose of needles and medical waste. “All you need is a plug,” he said. “There’s no special plumbing.” Having it at a fire station gives people who have to use needles at home, such as diabetics, a place to properly dispose of their needles, Deputy Fire Chief J.J. Burke said. “Nobody tells them what to do with the needles,” he said. Some people flush them, others put them in the trash and there have been instances where people store them in coffee cans and containers piled up in their homes. “This is a way to dispose of them safely,” Burke said.

 

Beyond needles, the Sterilis machine also can sterilize and grind other types of medical waste, such as the blood-soaked bandages from emergency calls. That’s important in Sandwich because the Fire Department’s headquarters are overcrowded and in a flood zone. Having to store the waste until it is picked up by the county for proper disposal creates a potential hazard during storms, Burke said. “It’s a secondary concern, but we have to think about that possibility,” he said. Next door at the Sandwich Police Department, there is a disposal site for unused prescription drugs. Two weeks ago, the department’s Facebook page displayed a photo of Detective Albert Robichaud, who had just emptied the bin. Inside was a plastic bottle filled with needles. “It happens all the time,” Police Chief Peter Wack said, despite a sign that says no needles or fluids should be disposed of inside the container. As part of the Facebook post, the Police Department urged people to use the disposal site at the fire station for needles. So far, the Fire Department is taking in about 100 needles each week — 90 percent of them from diabetics and other medical users, Burke said. The department also has been collecting needles from school nurses who treat students and even from one woman who drops off needles used to treat her diabetic dog. Fire departments make sense as disposal sites and the public needs a safe way to do it, Burke said. “We’re a 24/7 hub,” he said.

Original Article Published by Cape Cod Times - http://www.capecodtimes.com/news/20160326/sandwich-tests-safe-option-for-needle-disposal

By George Brennan  

Posted Mar. 26, 2016 at 2:00 AM
Updated at 7:01 AM