Infection prevention: Waste disposal processes

Healthcare organisations around the world are on the journey to benefit from the disposable pulp concept for managing human waste, gaining the benefits associated with each step. Implementing the simple improvements can be undertaken at the pace that is right for each particular instance taking into account the specifics of the site, infection risks, staff, types of patient and existing site layout.

An estimated 95% of the UK NHS sites now use disposable medical pulp products for managing patient waste, with macerators and pulp bedpans rapidly becoming established worldwide as a key part of preventing infection from human waste in the healthcare environment. Additional economic and sustainability benefits are also clear.

Washing reusable bedpans by hand:

Washing plastic and stainless bedpans and bottles by hand is straightforward to implement but labour intensive, not at all pleasant for those who undertake the task, and prone to infection issues. Most healthcare organisations have long moved on from this traditional method of waste handling.

Automated washing of reusable bedpans:

Washers are the logical progression from hand washing, automating process of cleaning the bedpans and urine bottles using hot water and typically a 10 minute cycle time.

Disposable pulp with binning & refuse collection:

Introducing disposable pulp items with a simple bag-and-bin approach is a straightforward step up in improving infection prevention as well as making a more pleasant working environment for carers and residents / patients alike. Costs associated with the consumables are comparable to the hot water energy costs associated with washer machines, and most organsiations already have waste collection services in place.

Disposable pulp with bedpan macerators:

Disposing of the pulp medical products in a bedpan macerator is the final step in the journey. Removing the need to open and close bins takes out one more infection pathway as well as removing the need for the extra waste collection or associated issues.

Infection Prevention

The importance of effective patient waste management cannot be understated particularly with regard to infection control. The introduction of disposable pulp items in this process removes cross infection risks associated with reusable bedpans and urine bottles. You wouldn’t re-use gloves, why risk reusing bedpans.

Washing bedpans and urine bottles is a risk for carers and residents:.

Disposing of bedpans with the discharge going to standard drainage system removes this infection pathway:

Common Problematic Situations:

Slop hoppers, often associated with manual or automated washing systems, often leave bodily fluids exposed to the air in the sluiceroom – bedpan macerators are sealed, all the waste can be put into the one machine for processing to the drainage system with minimal risk of aerosols being emitted: slop hopper with bodily fluids exposed to the air slop hopper with bodily fluids exposed to the air Pouring human waste into a washdown sink or slop hopper is an unnecessary cross infection pathway, splashing onto the operator, surfaces and aerosolisation of the contents of the bedpan are all either extra unpleasant work to clean up afterwards or simply additional risks that should be avoided.

Pouring the contents of a bedpan into a sink creates infection risk

Blood exposed to the air in a slop hopper

With a 10 minute cycle time, a regular feature in washer sluicerooms is that urine bottles and bedpans cannot be cleaned straight away at busy times. Carers will then understandably typically leave the bottles out and come back at some point later to load them, not only unpleasant work but another source of cross-infection through additional handling of human waste. Using a bedpan macerator, with typical cycle times between one and two minutes for up to four items means that one machine can serve in excess of 20 beds without becoming overloaded at busy times.

Urine bottles left in the sink as the washer was still running a cycle.

A lot of space is taken up with the racking requirements for reusable bedpans and bottles, there need to be enough of each type of container to not only deal with peak usage at the busy times of day, but also as there will be a significant number that are soiled and waiting to be cleaned at any one time. Storage of new pulp items, in standardised boxed containers, is tidy, compact and straightforward: storing reusable bedpans and bottles in the sluice room storing reusable bedpans and bottles in the sluice room typical racking for plastic bedpans and urine bottles in the sluice room typical racking for plastic bedpans and urine bottles in the sluice room

Storage in a sluiceroom is at a premium – what is clean and what is dirty?

Most healthcare sites have existing bin systems in place for a wide range of medical related waste disposal – an initial move from reusable items to disposable products can take advantage of this. The subsequent step to macerators not only improves infection control associated with less bin handling, but will reduce the load on the collection services back to capture more direct cost benefits.

Collection bins outside healthcare facility.