Hospitals and Health Networks Magazine

March 2011

By Whitney L.J. Howell

“Cost pressures—current and future— are forcing hospitals to look in every nook and cranny for efficiencies and savings. That includes the waste stream. A recent American Hospital Association guide on green practices suggests that health care facilities could save the industry between $4 billion and $7 billion by adopting greener practices…

…The notion that reusable devices constitute an infection risk is the biggest hindrance to reducing waste, says John Leigh, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s waste and recycling programs manager. “Our industry is moving toward disposable rather than reusable equipment because of infection concerns,” he says, citing staff education as key to cutting waste. “Until people are comfortable with the idea that some carefully handled reusable products are just as safe as disposables, we won’t see a drastic reduction in hospital trash.”

Dartmouth-Hitchcock altered how it handles regulated medical waste, he says, including using reusable sharps containers for used needles, reprocessing single-use devices, and buying hard pans and cases to reduce sterilization wrap in operating rooms.”

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