Couch rolls

I had the misfortune of a hospital appointment yesterday, for a series of tests that too place in a modest sized room equipped with an examination couch and a whole array of electronic equipment.

Shoes and socks off. Trousers rolled up around my knees, and top two buttons of my short undone.

Sat initially on the edge of the couch it was equipped with a nice clean pillow and cotton pillowcase, and a cotton sheet folded to create a pleasing strip down the centre of the couch, from over the head to beyond the end with carefully crafted style that might please the eye but achieved little else.

Over the top of all this was a length of couch roll. Not wide enough to cover the couch from side to side it sadly failed also to cover completely the sheet and pillow. As time went on, I moved from sitting to lying, first on my face and then on my back as electrodes were placed on my legs, arms, hands and feet, and around my neck.

When the test was complete, off came the couch roll that was scrunched up into a tiger strip bag. But why? No risk of contamination, it was certainly not sanitary or offensive waste. There was no more value in removing that couch roll for special disposal that to rip up the seat covering on the tube train that took me there, or the chair that I had sat on for a comfortingly brief wait before it was my turn for the examination.

Why continue to waste money disposing used couch roll as sanitary/offensive waste, or as clinical waste – since elsewhere in the same hospital I have witnessed vast volumes of this paper placed into orange sacks in the busy radiology department.

This stupidity is not helped by those who are responsible for HTM 07-01 who have failed to understand the reality of healthcare activities upon which they seek to impose cumbersome and inappropriate rules. Nor are those who might read HTM 07-01 and swallow hook, line and sinker, the largely unfounded ex-Cathedra “rules|” and apply them without thinking for themselves.

Blanket rules may for lazy management, though in some circumstances and for some waste categories I would be happy to apply a universal rule where it is necessary to ensure a fail-safe and practical disposal policy. The Environment Agency should take responsibility – it’s largely their mess in the first place – but that is not likely to happen. Instead, it requires better understanding by site waste managers, and the support of staff and disposal contractors, to devise better approaches to waste management. It is good to see source segregation of wastes happening, though with just a single waste container in the room the situation had clearly not been thought through properly.

The cost of separate disposal for many many tonnes of paper couch roll must be horrendous. And it’s public money that is being wasted. This waste can, be will not be, recovered as a valuable recyclate. Instead it will be treated, unnecessarily, probably by autoclave and then incinerated or consigned directly to landfill. That is unnecessarily costly, environmentally unsound and entirely inappropriate.



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