Nursing homes provide a very different type of care than acute-care hospitals. However, one thing that both types of facilities have in common is that both generate medical waste. While the typical nursing home may generate less regulated waste than hospitals do, nursing home medical waste is covered by the same state and federal regulations on handling that waste. So what do you need to know to help ensure your facility stays on the right side of those regulations? Here, we’ll go over some of the more important points of compliant nursing home waste management.
About proper classification and segregation of nursing home medical waste
Much of the waste produced daily in nursing homes is not regulated medical waste, and can be sent to the landfill in just the same way as regular household waste. However, the significant percentage of overall waste that is regulated medical waste must be handled much differently in order to protect the public and the environment and comply with federal and state regulations.
For this reason, it is essential to know how to classify your facility's waste products correctly, and in the case of regulated waste, how to segregate it in compliance with medical waste regulations. Common types of nursing home medical waste include:
Sharps – This category includes used needles and syringes as well as razors, lancets or other items that are capable of puncturing the skin and have been used in medical treatment. These must be segregated into approved sharps containers.
Biohazardous waste – This type of waste includes blood, blood products and other potentially infectious body fluids. It also includes disposable items, like bandages or cleaning materials, for example, that are saturated with blood or body fluids. Containers, tubing or catheters with blood or body fluids also fall under this classification, as do cultures and tissue samples. This type of medical waste is segregated into approved biohazardous waste containers.
Chemotherapy waste – If you have residents who are taking chemotherapy medications, these drugs are considered hazardous pharmaceutical waste and must be handled accordingly. They need to be segregated into approved RCRA Hazardous containers.
Radioactive waste – If your facility houses residents who are undergoing radiation treatments, you’ll need to know how to handle radioactive waste products. These residents may have had radioactive pellets inserted as part of treatment or could produce urine or feces that is contaminated with radiation. Any such hazardous materials must be segregated into approved RCRA Hazardous containers.
RCRA hazardous waste – Along with the hazardous medical wastes already mentioned, this category includes any chemical, substance or medication that falls under the RCRA’s hazardous waste category. These products are EPA "P" and "U" listed wastes plus any listed Characteristic wastes, and they must be placed in approved RCRA hazardous waste containers.
About compliant medical waste storage
Once your regulated medical waste is properly segregated, it must be stored according to state and federal regulations until it is picked up by your medical waste service provider. Storage areas for nursing home medical waste must be secure, unable to be accessed by the general public. They must be separate from food preparation and consumption areas.
How to best achieve and maintain safety and compliance
Nursing home medical waste regulations are complicated, and being sure your facility is complying with all the rules set forth by various state and federal agencies can be an overwhelming and confusing task. Getting some expert help in managing your facility’s waste management can make it much less stressful. A solid, full-service medical waste service provider can help you every step of the way, from the creation of an efficient and compliant waste management system to training your staff for effective implementation of that system.