WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–U.S. hospitals have been instructed to ramp up their preparedness plans, but many hospitals still aren’t able to sterilize the deadly Ebola waste on site. The federal government just announced “$21 million to 13 healthcare facilities to serve as leading providers of care within their regions to sustain and improve healthcare system preparedness for emerging special pathogens.”
However, 5 of the 13 special pathogen centers can NOT treat such waste on-site. Overall, most large hospitals lack on-site treatment capability, even after CDC Chief Dr. Frieden told Congress in 2015 that “Funding will go to hospitals to strengthen their waste management systems…Where we are supporting hospitals to deal with Ebola, we would want that done onsite,”.
One of the greatest challenge hospitals faced during the last outbreak was handling Ebola waste, which became a prominent issue during the Ebola crisis that came under scrutiny by the press and Congress. Ebola waste is classified as Category A by the US Department of Transportation (USDOT). According to the USDOT, Category A is “An infectious substance in a form capable of causing permanent disability or life-threatening or fatal disease in otherwise healthy humans or animals when exposure to it occurs.”
Recently, a hospital in the Pacific Northwest ran a table-top exercise to handle an Ebola patient. It found no local RMW transportation service provider to dispose of Ebola (CAT A) waste, and the nearest available hauler was over a thousand miles away. It would have cost them nearly hundred thousand dollars a day to dispose of the Ebla waste from one patient.
“The federal government needs to ensure that Ebola/Special Pathogen Centers have the ability to safely treat such waste on-site to protect workers and communities from exposure to the virus and mitigate the enormous costs of sending the waste off-site for treatment,” said Darrell Henry, Senior Advisor to the Healthcare Coalition for Emergency Preparedness, “With reports of 140 people arriving in the United States from Uganda daily, we know that an outbreak in the US is only a plane flight away.”
“Federal Agencies, including CDC, HHS, OSHA, and USDOT, suggest that Ebola/special pathogen waste be sterilized on-site at the hospital to minimize the public threat,” said Henry. “We also can’t overlook the need to deploy on-site sterilization technologies to Veterans Administration Medical Centers, which, per the VA’s own analysis, would save the federal government millions of dollars in every day operating costs.”
As recent as 30-35 years ago, most hospitals had on-site technology (incineration) to destroy any contagious waste, but that was discontinued due to EPA regulations to reduce toxic emissions. Today, just 20% of hospitals have on-site technology (mostly large steam autoclaves). While most outsource the treatment of medical waste, nearly all of the top ranked medical institutions (Hopkins, Stanford, Cleveland Clinic, Mayo, UCLA, and others) utilize on-site sterilization technology, which is readily available and affordable.
The Healthcare Coalition for Emergency Preparedness was formed 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.