Prior to using the SteriMed® Systems unit, Blue Mountain Hospital disposed of its medical waste the same way that the vast majority of the nearly 6,000 U.S. hospitals do. It hauled its waste several hundred miles– often across state lines – to the nearest medical waste incinerator, which would burn the waste, generating airborne pollutants such as dioxins, furans and dangerous compounds. Blue Mountain Hospital, along with the Utah Navajo Health System (UNHS) paid as much as $5,000 each month to haul and incinerate of their medical waste using offsite incineration. Associated costs included a driver's salary, gas and insurance for the transport vehicle, and contract fees with incinerator companies. Often times the medical waste generated at the hospital would be stored for up to 30 days at the hospital before being transported to the incinerator. This on-site storage process also contributed to increased risk of healthcare acquired infection (HAI) within the hospital, whose goal is to provide a healthy environment for its patients.
"It was our only option," said Donna Singer, CEO of Blue Mountain Hospital. "The costs to us were huge, not only financially but in terms of human risk and environmental hazards. Storing our waste had potentially serious consequences, including the spread of infectious disease and the wind blowing the toxic waste onto city streets. One time our van was hit while in transit and medical waste was strewn all over the highway."
With the System 70 unit, Blue Mountain's medical waste disposal costs have plummeted to $2,000 per month, a cost that will disappear once the machine is paid off. "We wanted a SteriMed unit for the cost savings alone," said Trent Herring, Environment of Care Director at Blue Mountain Hospital. "The additional benefits to the environment and in terms of infection control, not to mention the service we are providing to our community health clinics, make it one of the most valuable assets in our hospital."
The SteriMed® method of medical waste treatment has been so successful for Blue Mountain Hospital that the hospital invited surrounding medical clinics, healthcare providers, and the community to bring their medical waste to Blue Mountain for disposal. Blue Mountain Hospital is closely aligned with a larger health system that includes four clinics, provides medical services to members of the Navajo and Ute reservations, and offers programs for patients with diabetes and other chronic diseases. These outlying facilities generate an additional 6,000 pounds per year, all of which was also being transported long distances to a medical incinerator.