How are Medical Disposal Companies Handling COVID-19?
The COVID-19 virus had spread to six continents, affecting more than 200 countries. As of August 7, 2020, approximately 718,000 people had died due to the respiratory illness. The risk of getting infected is still high, especially for those who live in areas with confirmed COVID-19 cases. Most of these deaths occurred in Brazil and the U.S.
Number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths worldwide as of August 7, 2020, by country
Amid the pandemic, people are still advised to stay home and avoid public places or mass gatherings. Some territories have lifted the travel restrictions, but people who had been in close contact with an infected individual should seek immediate medical attention.
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The respiratory disease has affected not only the people, but also the numerous medical practices around the world. In fact, it changed the way health care services are delivered in many countries such as the United States. The pandemic also affected the operations of healthcare facilities, as well as the lives of millions of physicians and their staff.
How does the pandemic affect the medical industry, specifically the medical practices across the globe?
The pandemic has truly changed the game for many healthcare facilities across the globe. It affected the entire industry in so many ways, including the following:
- Increased Demand for Testing and Care. There is an increasing number of people wanting to get tested and cared for. Many medical practices are deferring and delaying non-COVID-19 care and prioritizing care for patients who tested positive.
- Supply Chain Concerns. Amid the pandemic, disruptions in supply chains are occurring; therefore, affecting the medical facilities’ testing capabilities and access to medical resources and supplies.
- Shortage of Healthcare Staff. Due to the increasing number of people who seek care for respiratory illnesses that could be COVID-19, many hospitals and clinics are experiencing fluctuations in occupancy and a shortage of personnel. This is a big challenge since providing immediate care to patients is crucial to their potential recovery.
The shortage could also stem from to the fact that many healthcare personnel are either choosing to stay home or were infected while on duty and needed to seek immediate care. There is an increased risk of developing mental health problems because of the stress and anxiety that come with caregiving responsibilities.
- Infection Control and Prevention. Infection control is also a big concern among small and big facilities. Testing and caring for patients are costly and tedious enough. Implementing guidelines and procedures to prevent the spread of the disease is another story. As of now, there is no existing FDA-approved medications or vaccines to treat and prevent COVID-19.
The medical industry’s response
Medical facilities must provide the best possible care for all patients and their healthcare staff. Operating safely and effectively during the pandemic is of utmost importance. There is also a need to adjust the way they provide care to patients. The current options include:
- Home-based care
- Urgent care
- Intensive care
- Inpatient care
- Outpatient care
- Emergency room care
Proper preparation is important to keep the practice safe for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, as well as the healthcare personnel on duty. Here’s how medical facilities can respond to the pandemic:
- Educating the staff
Healthcare professionals should learn about COVID-19 and the importance of keeping the disease from spreading. They must be informed about the practices and policies that the medical facility is implementing to minimize the risk of infection inside the facilities. They should undergo continuous training or take refresher courses on preventing transmission of infectious or communicable diseases such as COVID-19.
The staff should also learn about the alternative ways to manage the medical facility. If there are changes in the standard operating procedures or SOP in the medical office, the healthcare personnel should be informed so that they can adhere to the new policies and procedures.
- Preparing the medical facility
The current situation required physicians to make some changes to their facilities’ design and layout. The pandemic also changed the way physicians and staff deliver healthcare services to patients. Adjustments in medical office management include frequent disinfection of the facility and the tools and equipment used to provide care. Providing alcohol, hand sanitizers, and face masks also became part of the preventive plan for many healthcare facilities.
- Protecting the personnel and the patients
Healthcare professionals are considered front liners and heroes amid the health crisis that hit the most part of the world. That said, their safety is of utmost importance. Medical facilities are stocking up on personal protective equipment, as well as testing kits and disinfection supplies to keep their medical staff safe against the virus. There are also existing guidelines to optimize and regulate the use and reuse of PPE in the facility.
- Proper waste disposal
Medical waste comes from hospitals, physicians’ offices, dental practices, and other healthcare facilities. This type of waste may contain blood, bodily fluids, and other infectious substances, which could cause cross-contamination. It’s important to treat and dispose of medical waste properly to contain the outbreak. Many healthcare facilities and small physicians’ offices are hiring professional medical waste disposal service to make this happen.
Legal guidelines on medical waste disposal
Medical facilities and waste management companies are currently following strict guidelines to protect more lives and prevent the rapid spread of the deadly respiratory disease. Every state’s health agency and environmental protection agency usually regulates the management and disposal of medical waste. CDC, FDA, and OSHA also have regulations when it comes to medical waste management and disposal.
Physicians and medical staff should observe the utmost care when handing and disposing of medical waste. For example, medical sharps and used needles must be collected and consolidated properly before being discarded. Most of the time, a leak-free biohazard bag is used to contain regulated medical wastes.
Federal and state regulations require medical facilities to store and transport regulated medical wastes safely. To avoid the accumulation of potentially infectious wastes, healthcare facilities must dispose of their waste regularly. If there’s a need to store medical waste, it should be kept in a sturdy and properly labeled container to avoid leaks and contamination. The container should be placed in a room with the right temperature to prevent foul odors. Medical waste must also be treated or decontaminated in the facility prior to further handling and disposal.
The alternative medical waste treatment and disposal technologies used today include autoclaving, microwave, and electropyrolysis. Treating medical wastes is important to protect medical waste disposal workers against potential transmission of COVID-19 and other diseases. Medical waste disposal companies are also using advanced and compliant procedures and technologies to protect the environment and the people, as well as help prevent the respiratory disease from spreading.
Medical facilities and medical waste disposal companies have a big responsibility, especially in this new COVID world. Every possible preventive measure should be taken to save more lives and preserve a safe and healthy world for the next generations.
About the Author
Cedric Matthews is a dedicated physician with multiple years of clinical experience under his belt. He wishes to spread awareness of the medical industry’s current situation.