There has been an increasing concern over the amount of medical waste that is being produced by hospitals. However, this may be leading some hospitals to reuse medical devices that should only be used once and then disposed of, such as needles and syringes.
It has been estimated that in the United States, over 100,000 people have been exposed to infections such as hepatitis and HIV over the last ten years due to the use of reused needles, resulting in unsafe injections, or vials of medicine that have been dipped into multiple times. These exposures can result in outbreaks of the diseases.
However, the concern about the large amount of medical waste that is produced on a daily basis remains. Those who are concerned about this issue believe that as much medical equipment as possible should be recycled in the effort to reducing the number of landfills that contain medical waste. This should be done while ensuring that patient safety is maintained. One method of recycling medical equipment that is safe is re-sterilization.
As there have not been any outbreaks reported when recycled medical equipment has been properly sterilized, such equipment appears to be safe to use. Very expensive equipment is sterilized after every use. This is done through carefully prescribed, heavily regulated steps.
How to recycle less expensive equipment is also being looked into. However, given that the equipment is less expensive, if it is not possible for it to be sterilized then it can be thrown out. The current methods used to sterilize the items is adequate enough to guarantee sterility, however, this guarantee needs to be extended to other items in the future as they are added to the list of items that need to be regularly sterilized.
The need to reduce medical waste and ensure patient safety by throwing out certain equipment after it has been used once can be at odds. It continues to be more prudent to dispose of less expensive medical equipment rather than re-sterilizing it. However, maintaining patient safety is the most important aspect medical professionals and hospitals should look at when determining whether certain medical equipment should be reused.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of contaminated medical equipment, contact an experienced Kingston, New York medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to evaluate your case.
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