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Have you ever wondered what happens to medical equipment and supplies after use? 

Medical equipment and supplies are important in the medical industry. We can’t imagine doctors treating people without medical equipment and supplies in today’s world. These act as a defence against disease and illness. 

Nowadays, doctors have access to a large variety of medical equipment and supplies. However, not all of them are used, and all used and unused medical equipment must be disposed of. But it’s not as simple as putting them in a dustbin for disposal. Syringes, for example, must be disposed of properly and carefully because they can spread infection in humans and animals. 

Improper disposal of medical equipment, even medical supplies like surgical masks, will also lead to water pollution. Thus, it is vital to know the technique of medical equipment disposal to prevent the spread of infection and injury.

Read this article to learn how to dispose of unused medical supplies and techniques for disposing of medical equipment.

Stages In Disposing of Medical Equipment

Medical equipment and supplies, such as a rapid antigen test kit, require careful operation and disposal. The storage of used or broken medical equipment can be dangerous and lead to public and environmental harm. Moreover, using the same medical equipment can also be dangerous. Whether you are a medical professional or not, you should know how to dispose of unused medical supplies. 

According to WHO’s Decommissioning of Medical Devices, three primary stages must be followed to dispose of medical equipment: decommissioning, decontaminating and disposal or reuse.

  • Decommissioning of medical equipment

Decommissioning is the first step in disposing of medical equipment. The medical equipment is removed from service in a medical hospital or health care facility after a decision to withdraw the device from the service in which it is employed. 

Assessing the medical equipment properly before withdrawing it from service is essential. For example, suppose the medical equipment, such as a rapid antigen test kit, is identified as being outdated. In that case, it should be collected and sorted in accordance with the treatment and disposal requirements before being transported from the medical centre, such as a laboratory or hospital. Furthermore, it should be categorised into hazardous and non-hazardous equipment waste. 

  • Decontamination of the medical equipment

All the used medical equipment should be thoroughly cleaned per the instructions specified for that particular equipment. The next step is to ensure that the equipment is safe for treatment or removal by decontaminating and cleaning it. The gathered equipment is then taken to the decontamination facility or organisation. 

The decontamination is done as per the instructions provided by the manufacturer and the risk of infection caused by the equipment. For instance, all the Class II-risk equipment is first cleaned and decontaminated, then sterilised, pasteurised or thermally disinfected. On the other hand, high-risk equipment is first decontaminated, cleaned, dried, repacked and re-labeled before being sent for sterilisation.

Here are the basic steps to follow whilst cleaning and disinfecting medical equipment:

  • Disassemble

In this step, the equipment is disassembled and sorted. Finally, the sharp and consumable items are removed and disposed of properly per the health care waste management system.

  • Clean

The next step is cleaning, where equipment is cleaned using an appropriate cleaning agent, such as an enzymatic solution or detergent. Then it is dipped in water and rubbed or brushed to remove air pockets to prevent the spread of infection. Although not all equipment can be dipped in water, it is crucial to follow the instructions. After the equipment is cleaned correctly, it is thoroughly rinsed with detergent.

  • Manual cleaning

If equipment is grossly soiled, it is cleaned manually before being processed in a mechanical washer. Likewise, manual cleaning steps are followed if the mechanical washer is unavailable.

  • Mechanical cleaning

Mechanical washers effectively clean and rinse the equipment and remove all the microorganisms. 

  • Disinfect 

Equipment that can’t be used again is thoroughly pasteurised or disinfected thermally after cleaning. Sterilisation of this equipment is also recommended to remove the microorganisms properly.

  • Disposal or Reuse of Medical Equipment

Disposal means when the equipment is permanently eliminated, i.e., cannibalised, incinerated or recycled. Reuse is when the equipment is refurbished, donated, reprocessed or sold. If the medical equipment is identified as being safe for reuse, then here are the steps to be followed:

  • Reassignment

In this step, medical equipment and supplies, such as surgical masks, are transferred externally or internally to another place where it is needed. Internal reassignment means the equipment is transferred only within the healthcare system. When the performance of medical equipment is still acceptable and can be trusted, it is sent to another department where it can be utilised. Firstly, however, it is necessary to determine whether the equipment qualifies for the standard of reuse. 

  • Refurbishing

In this step, reconditioning of the used medical devices is done. However, no significant changes have been made in their performance or service procedures.

  • Donation

The medical equipment whose performance and safety conditions are appropriate can be donated. For instance, a large city hospital can donate medical equipment to a middle- or low-income rural hospital or a non-governmental health care centre.

  • Sale

According to the jurisdiction, decommissioned medical equipment can be sold to another medical health care centre that requires it.

  • Trade-in

Medical equipment procured on lease is returned to the seller at a fixed value for a new device.

How To Dispose Of Unused Medical Supplies In Australia

Disposing of unused medical supplies is an important step to help protect public health and the environment. In Australia, it is recommended to contact your local council or health authority for advice on the safe disposal of unused medical supplies. 

Depending on the type of medical supplies you have, there may be different procedures for disposing of them. It is important to follow the recommended guidelines for disposal, as some medical supplies can be hazardous to human health and the environment. For example, needles, syringes and other sharps should be disposed of in a sharps container and sent to a local medical waste collection site. Other medical supplies, such as pharmaceuticals and medical consumables, should be disposed of in a container that can be sealed, such as a plastic bag, and returned to a pharmacy for proper disposal.

Dexcon | Leading Medical Device and PPE Supplier in Australia

We, at Dexcon, are one of the leaders in providing PPE and other medical devices in Australia and around the world. We deal with a range of products that are useful in the medical industry, such as nitrile gloves, sanitisers, surgical masks and more. 

If you are an individual or business looking to buy medical devices at affordable rates, contact us here. We will provide you with the best medical equipment and supplies at an affordable price.