||Autoclave operator Melvin Goodwin prepares the machine to pulverize and treat medical waste.
Six years ago at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center the cost of disposing of medical waste was high and getting higher every year. Members of a cost containment committee at the hospital set out to find a more cheap and eco-friendly way to eliminate the necessary but unpleasant byproducts of saving lives and treating people.
In April, after years of work by cost-containment committee members in collaboration with city and state regulatory agencies, the hospital began using a state-of-the-art autoclave machine to sterilize and grind up regulated medical waste into confetti-like particles, then dispose of it as treated medical waste, protecting healthcare professionals, the public and the environment.
Authorized by the New York State Department of Health, Lincoln Hospital is the only medical facility in New York City approved to use rotating autoclave technology for the treatment of regulated medical waste.
The autoclave machine reduces the volume of medical waste by about 80 percent and helped the hospital save $42,000 in the treatment and removal of medical waste in just the first three months of operation. Hospital officials estimate the annual costs of removing the waste will be dramatically reduced from $183,000 to $16,000, and the use of the machine will also mitigate exposure to penalties and/or fines from regulatory agencies that can cost as much as $1 million.
“We welcome this exceptional opportunity to do our part in protecting the environment and shielding the public from exposure to medical waste,” said Lincoln Hospital Executive Director Iris Jimenez-Hernandez. “The implementation of this groundbreaking technology will not only play a vital role in preventing public exposure of contaminants by treating infectious material on site, but also represents a significant cost-containment tool.”
The South Bronx, where Lincoln Hospital is located, has a high incidence of asthma among its residents and years ago community members fought to shut down an incinerator in the area. The autoclave is clean and green because it pulverizes and sterilizes the medical waste before it is taken out of the hospital, Lincoln officials said.
“Additionally, the use of this technology protects health care employees in that at no time do they have to handle the medical waste directly.” said Mike Bocachica, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, who together with the Lincoln Hospital cost-containment committee worked in collaboration with city and state regulatory agencies to develop new statewide policies for use of the new technology. The group undertook extensive research on waste processing methods and alternatives to ensure the safety and feasibility of rotating autoclave technology and its compliance with regulatory requirements. The research led the committee to formulate a set of guidelines to conform to City and State medical waste disposal policies and regulations.
Manufactured by Tempico Industries, Inc., the Rotoclave® rotating mechanism reaches the required minimum temperature of 276 degrees Fahrenheit necessary to sterilize medical waste. It releases the end product as unrecognized, treated waste whose volume is reduced by approximately 80 percent.
Lincoln Hospital generated 405,222 lbs. of regulated medical waste in 2009, an increase of approximately 33% over the past five years. This is due, in part, to consistent increases in admissions, discharges, clinic visits and surgical procedures. The autoclave machine cost $600,000. The hospital projects it will save $167,000 a year in the treatment and removal of medical waste.
“This technology will pay for itself in less than four years,” Bocachica said. “It enables us to be environmentally safe and save money at the same time.”