Technology is the solution to Ebola medical waste threat at U.S. hospitals, not lowering DOT safety standards, says Healthcare Coalition
As the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States is currently being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, the Healthcare Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (HCEP) remains concerned about conflicting Ebola medical waste regulations and confusion over regulations and proper procedures at hospitals across the U.S. Despite the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) granting a waiver in the past week to Texas Health Presbyterian, HCEP is concerned about untreated Ebola waste leaving the hospital and being transported through Dallas communities.
Instead, there are simple solutions and technologies available to help hospitals implement appropriate protocols, along with international guidelines regarding infection control procedures and preparedness in our hospitals. The Nebraska Medical Center that treated an American doctor infected with Ebola is a good example for the proper use of safe and effective protocols.
HCEP urges local health officials and healthcare providers to work together to ensure:
1) That those already infected (as well as those suspected of or under quarantine) with Category A illnesses (i.e. Ebola) should be routed to hospitals that can properly treat such patients at international standards;
2) That hospitals have proper protocols for handling Ebola waste in the hospital, including on-site treatment;
3) That hospitals perform on-site sterilization of Ebola waste before it’s removed from the facility along with disinfecting liquid Ebola waste before it’s put into a municipal sewer system.
“There is no reason for DOT to lower safety standards when there are affordable, existing technologies commonly used today that allow hospitals to properly and safely treat substances infected with Ebola and other dangerous Category A pathogens on-site,” said HCEP Executive Director Darrell Henry. “For example, the Dallas Ebola waste issue could have been remedied quickly by routing the patient to one of the several other local hospitals that can sterilize waste on-site instead of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, which didn’t have such capabilities.”
Henry added: “Appropriately disinfecting waste on-site instead of trucking it across the city will help promote confidence in our health system and government agencies’ ability to protect the public.”
The HCEP recently sent letters outlining these concerns and solutions to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, all state health commissions and the U.S. DOT. In the interest of public safety and of following best practices, the letters encouraged the state and federal agencies to follow the World Health Organization’s standards for Ebola waste and asked they help ensure that hospitals have on-site capabilities to sterilize Ebola/Category A infected waste before removal and transportation through our communities.
Around 1,000 hospitals in America have on-site waste sterilization systems in daily use to treat Category A infectious substances. These existing and affordable technologies can kill all Category A pathogens such that infected items become sterile, safe for handling by healthcare workers (and even the public), and require no further treatment by hospitals to transport or dispose of with general waste -- per various federal government and international guidelines.
The HCEP was formed in an effort to raise awareness and educate people about often overlooked issues in plans to maintain healthcare facility operations during a crisis and to develop efficient methods to reduce healthcare costs.