An effective and well-planned modern sluice or dirty utility room which enables clean and effective human waste disposal and disinfection is key to ensuring excellent hygiene and infection control standards in hospitals and other healthcare facilities

The careful and safe disposal of human waste and associated decontamination of reusable and single use items such as bedpans and urine bottles are one of the most important operations for maintenance of both patient and healthcare worker wellbeing. Minimising the risk of HCAI’s will directly reduce costs, due to significant decreases in nursing time and the use of antibiotics, as well as through the avoidance of a total ward shutdown when an infection cycle needs to be broken. By disposing of all human waste in a single area, infection can easily be contained and isolated before it can spread.

Pulp macerators

There has been growing popularity of pulp macerators and single use pulp items, which has been driven by the need for higher standards in infection control in all healthcare facilities.

Due to the increasing number of outbreaks of infection caused by high-risk microorganisms, such as C. difficile, and the inability of washer-disinfectors to eliminate the risk of cross-infection, many UK healthcare establishments are now moving away from the use of reusable human waste containers and switching instead to single-use ‘pulp’ containers, with subsequent pulp maceration and disposal as an alternative, and extremely reliable, means of total infection control.

Such pulp macerators will destroy disposable pulp bedpan/urine bottle containers and their contents, including ‘macerator-friendly’ wipes and bags, by pulverising items into tiny particles using carefully designed blade technology. Furthermore, as well as eliminating the contamination risk arising from reusable products, pulp macerators have low water and electricity consumption with fast cycle times, thereby enhancing work efficiencies, and reducing valuable staff time spent in the sluice/dirty utility room.

What is medical pulp?

Traditionally medical products have been made of stainless steel or plastic materials. In the modern environment – with an increased focus on reducing hospital-acquired infections and the seemingly endless demands on healthcare budgets – recycled paper pulp is considered as a clean and cost-effective alternative. Moulded pulp products are a sustainable product, as they are produced from recycled materials such as old phone books, newspapers, magazines, cardboard – in fact any product made of paper fibres. In some instances, the pulp products can be recycled again after their useful lifecycle to fuel power plants. The recycled paper is mixed in large vats with hot water at between 43˚C and 65˚C. The hot water swells the fibres, causing them to break apart, and after 20 minutes they become pulp. This is then filtered to screen out plastic and other contaminates and is then moulded into shape using a fully automated process. Moulded pulp products can also be made waterproof with a spray or dip coating of wax after.

Reducing costs

Pulp products for use in hospitals are purpose-built for managing a number of different, but entirely typical nursing situations that occur on an everyday basis, such as holding/collecting vomit, urine, or faeces. Once the product has been used it can be safely destroyed, together with the human waste material, in a pulp macerator. By switching to pulp utensils instead of stainless steel or plastic, nursing staff and healthcare providers can reduce costs by avoiding costly purchases of reusable utensils, and the task of washing and storage of such utensils. Staff can also avoid the unpopular task of handling used or dirty bedpans.

Conclusion

Inadequate decontamination and disposal of human waste can result in the transfer of infections to patients and health workers; every location in which decontamination procedures are undertaken should be properly designed, maintained, and controlled. A healthcare establishment must be able to guarantee that it can effectively deliver the clean and efficient disposal/disinfection of human waste containers to maintain a safe and hygienic environment for patients, residents, and staff alike.

More healthcare facilities are moving over to single-use pulp products and maceration. Whether this is planned in at the build stage, or when replacing existing systems, choosing the most effective method of sluice/dirty utility room management for the establishment is of paramount importance.

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