Nursing Home Waste

Nursing home facility managers have a lot to consider, due to the many liabilities inherent in providing 24-7 care to elderly patients. Complex issues such as caring for patients who suffer from dementia or wandering habits to the challenge of providing the best care with limited resources present significant challenges.

When it comes to medical-waste liability, nursing homes have the same cradle-to-grave liability as do hospitals, medical practices, and the like. Waste that is classified by local, state, and federal authorities as Regulated Medical Waste (RMW) must be segmented from regular trash, contained in specific containers, treated, and finally disposed of with specific documentation proving all of this kept on file for years. 

Processing medical waste in nursing homes is generally the same as in other medical practices and dental facilities, however there are three unique aspects they encounter: 

  1. A common issue is that stretched-thin, untrained, or unaccountable staff mix regular trash with RMW. Examples of over-classification may include throwing uncontaminated latex gloves, cloths, or bandages in with the red-bag waste.  This causes higher volume in RMW containers awaiting pick up from third party haulers. This costs a facility a lot more money in removal as third party haulers often charge by container or by weight. One of the most effective ways to cut down on this issue is to set clear expectations with staff about what is expected and have an accountability process in place. (For more tips on this please see our post Is it Medical Waste?? Or Just Trash?)

  2. Nursing homes generate a high volume of sharps waste and therefore end up with large amount of sharps that await pick up. There are safety issues that result in having to store sharps awaiting their monthly or bi-weekly pick ups. Locked sharps containers are often kept outside a facility due to a lack of space, to keep residents safe, and to make pick up more convenient for haulers. The unfortunate reality is that all too often these locked containers are targeted for their contents (syringes and potential drugs). 

  3. Variable cost issues arise for those running several nursing home facilities. When volumes vary from one facility to another, negotiating contract pricing with haulers successfully can prove tricky. The projected waste amounts across all the locations can lead to an under-negotiated contract that results in very high penalty fees when one location generates higher volumes than expected (i.e. overweight fees or extra-container charges.)

To address all three of these problems head-on, a facility manager should consider an on-premise solution for dealing with RMW. 

An onsite solution:

  • Allows for unlimited volumes of RMW to be treated. Even if nursing staff mix RMW with regular trash, no additional cost will be added to the low, fixed monthly rate.

  • An onsite solution treats RMW in just a few hours time. The sterilized waste can then can be deposited in the regular municipal trash bins, as it is now considered non-hazardous, solid waste. This means there is no need for large locked sharps containers to be kept that could be broken into.

  • Variable cost is not an issue when an onsite solution is employed, as usually there is a set cost per machine that treats the waste.

Additionally, a facility gains control of their cradle-to-grave liability when they treat their RMW at their facility. This limits the number of potential litigation issues that can arise. (Please see our post Who Can Sue Your for Improper Medical Waste Handling and Disposal)

OnSite Waste has an approved method for treating RMW. The on-premise solution provides a fixed rental rate each month, regardless of the number of cycles a facility needs to run at each location.

Additionally, the  solution typically costs less. On average, nursing home customers have 2-4 pickups per month and pay an average of $600 to $1,300 a month. The OnSite solution typically saves nursing home customers 70-90%.