UIHC purchases sophisticated new waste management system
IOWA CITY, Iowa --The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC)
has become the first hospital in the United States to purchase Waste Tracker,
a state-of-the-art system that monitors biomedical waste and recyclables.
This system will be used at the UIHC's various facilities to help reduce
the volume of waste generated and to increase recyclables. The system should
be fully operational by January 1999 and is expected to help UIHC reduce
waste disposal costs.
A major challenge for most hospitals is the fact that more than one-third
of the medical waste stream is not actually medical waste; it is clean
paper, packaging, recyclable plastics, and many other items that are not
dangerous. These recyclables end up in the medical waste stream because
most hospitals don't realize the cost of the problem, nor do they have
the means to effectively institute an ongoing segregation program.
In the past five years, UIHC has already succeeded in reducing its volume
of regulated medical waste by 50 percent. "With the Waste Tracker,
we have a sophisticated new tool that will allow us to go even further
with our waste reduction efforts. We will be broadening our focus to include
recycling as well as regulated waste. This system will help us identify
specific types of recycling streams so that we can set benchmark levels
for waste reduction in various areas," said Martin E. Shafer, operations
manager, facility operations - housekeeping, at UIHC.
"The Waste Tracker gives UIHC's management precise and timely data
so that we can make ongoing improvements to the waste handling process,"
says Shafer. "We plan to seek out those areas where our day-to-day
procedures may not match our policies. With the Waste Tracker we will record
what is happening, inform the key people promptly, and track the changes
The Waste Tracker system consists of hand-held computers with touch
screens and digital cameras. These units are used by housekeeping personnel
to record the types of waste each department produces and the specific
steps required to improve each waste stream. If there is an instance of
non-compliance, a digital photo is taken for internal reporting. The system
has expert advice built into it, which the user references as he or she
tours the facility. While each department has individual waste issues,
the expertise required in a facility the size and scope of UIHC is extensive.
The collected information is downloaded into a computer and automatically
incorporated into e-mail memos to the responsible parties for each department.
Daily and weekly reports also show how much biohazardous waste was produced
and any areas where corrective action is needed.
The system has already achieved impressive cost savings at seven major
Canadian hospitals over the last five years. Biohazardous waste volume
was reduced by an average of 35 percent and disposal costs cut by as much
as 60 percent. "In each of the hospitals where the Waste Tracker has
been installed, we have guaranteed that the system would pay for itself
in a short period of time," said Stephen Walsh, president of Montreal-based
Walsh Integrated Environmental Systems and inventor of the Waste Tracker.
"In the case of the UIHC installation, we expect the Waste Tracker
to pay for itself well within the first two years, even considering the
improvements they have previously made." Shafer estimates that using
the Waste Tracker will save the UIHC about $50,000 the first year (1999-2000).
The Waste Tracker has also received positive endorsements from waste
management experts in Canada and the U.S. "This system is an efficient
and easy-to-use tool that will help UIHC accurately track how well it is
managing its biomedical waste disposal costs. From the clinical side, the
system reinforces best practices via regularly generated memos and reports.
Such a systematic approach to waste management will help ensure that UIHC
fully complies with the increasingly stringent government regulations being
imposed on hospitals for their handling of waste," said Michael Garvin,
safety engineer at UIHC, who is an expert on medical waste issues.