It is reported that an Avery Weigh-Tronix weighing system is to be installed at East Kent Hospital Trust with a view to save £100,000 per year on its clinical waste disposal costs.
As reported in Medical News Today, Dan Gurney, facilities business manager for the Trust claims “It is well documented that 40 percent of the clinical waste disposed of by hospitals should actually be in the general waste. The cost of clinical waste disposal for us is between £335 and £700 per tonne depending on its exact classification. The cost of general waste disposal is about £100 per tonne.
“Although clinical waste is about one third of our total volume, it accounts for two thirds of our waste disposal budget, so it is an obvious area where we can make efficiency savings.
“The trust has installed three floor mounted scale stations, one at each of its three hospitals’ waste collection sites. Each scale has an E1210 indicator controlling the scale and links to a central network on which Avery Weigh-Tronix has installed its M725 Data Power management software.
“When waste is disposed the system prompts an operator for their identification, the department or source of waste, the type of waste and the bin or trolley identity. The hospital’s head office can then monitor and report on the data to track trends and identify areas for improvement. Reports can show individual waste streams by cost, location and department.
This type of system can be achieved using RFID tracking of waste carts, though this Avery system may be just as efficient. It is an appropach that is invaluable to a large Trust operating unit a full cost accounting and recharging for support services and waste management. However, if this new system duplicates the weighing of waste outputs by the appointed contractor then it is a very expensive duplication in circumstances where collaboration should ensure all of the waste output statistics and management information that is necessary, at a fraction of the cost.
In all probability, there are less than adequate standards of waste segregation at East Kent Hospital, but as I have found elsewhere, logistics, site layout, support service management and other practical matters impact greatly on waste segregation standards. Until those issues are fixed, source segregation will not improve significantly, errors may increase, and waste management will remain below the required standard and will be unnecessarily costly.
Providing feedback to producers is hugely important, but that message must be constructed and delivered with great care. Too often, waste or facilities managers with little understanding of healthcare use the tale of costly clinical waste ‘contaminated’ with low cost and non-hazardous domestic waste items to badger producers to reduce their output of clinical waste. Daily or weekly output reports reinforce the message that wastes should be moved from orange or yellow sacks to a less costly waste stream without any information on accuracy of segregation. As long as weights are down, all is well but of course there is far more too this than reducing weight!
“It is only by having such an accurate reporting system that we can make informed choices and become more efficient. Making savings will divert funds to front line medical care, which supports the aim of the government’s White Paper.”
Waste is a costly commodity, and diversion to a less expensive waste stream is vital but only where it is safe to do so. Risk management has been put on the back burner. Capital outlay will be hard to justify if ongoing and serious errors in segregation, driven by management failures that mistake simple tonnages with correct waste segregation performance, result in intervention of the regulator and ultimately higher costs. That will certainly will divert funds from front line medical care.
Good luck to East Kent Hospital and Avery. The acid test will be a detailed performance study at 1 year, looking at the actual savings accrued, the impact of feedback management reports, sustainability of the entire project, and the composition of all of those less costly waste streams that will be swelled by wastes presently being disposed as clinical.