In healthcare, ensuring facilities have implemented optimal infection and control measures for the safe management and disposal of human excreta is critical. These practices and measures must be firmly in place across the entire facility and carried out by all staff members to ensure all risk of cross-infection is minimised. 

For patients who are receiving care in a healthcare facility, there is a high chance that they could be shedding their illness’s bacteria into their faecal matter. Other bacterias including C. difficile, norovirus and MRSA can also be present in human waste. A study exploring water sanitation conducted by The World Health Organization (WHO) states: “Safe disposal of excreta so that it does not contaminate the environment, water, food or hands, is essential for ensuring a healthy environment and for protecting personal health1”.

Whilst there are a variety of disposal methods for human excreta, in this article, we’re taking a closer look at 4 common methods for the disposal of human waste.

 

Using a Bedpan Washer

A bedpan washer, sometimes known as a washer-disinfector is designed to wash and disinfect reusable plastic and stainless steel receptacles, including bedpans and urinals. After use, these items need to be disinfected thoroughly so they can be used by other patients, safely. 

Reusable receptacles are placed onto an internal rack within the bedpan washer. When the washing cycle initiates, nozzles within the washer spray hot water and sometimes chemicals at the used, dirty items to empty, clean, and disinfect them. Both the dirty water and any waste, including excreta residue, is then flushed down into the drainage system. 

To ensure both the patient and healthcare professional’s safety, reusable receptacles must be disinfected when in the bedpan washer. This is to prevent cross-contamination. However, in practice, this does not always happen. 

A recent study evaluating bedpan washers discovered that whilst the disinfection process eliminates a large number of the microorganisms, it does not destroy certain bacteria including C. difficile2. When using bedpan washers, there is a significant number of high-risk touchpoints that can put the healthcare employees using the bedpan washers at risk of cross-contamination.

Bedpan washer in a sluice room.

Bedpan washer in a sluice room.

According to another study, with over 93 contact episodes per hour between patients, staff and visitors, there is a risk for cross-infection using a reusable system which can lead to patient & caregiver mortality & escalating healthcare costs3

From an environmental perspective, plastic bedpans although reusable will require replacement and therefore their disposal is considered as hazardous to the environment as they are not biodegradable4.

Handwashing a bedpan over a toilet with a spray arm.

Handwashing a bedpan over a toilet with a spray arm.

Handwashing Bedpans

Handwashing reusable bedpans and urinals is a popular human excreta disposal method used around the world. After the patient has used the bedpan or urinal, it is taken by the healthcare worker to the dirty utility room, sometimes known as a sluice room, for cleaning and decontamination.

To handwash the receptacle, a healthcare professional uses a spray arm over a utility sink which projects high-temperature water at the bedpan. The excreta, water and other waste then falls into the sink and follows into the drainage system. 

Whilst handwashing is a popular method for disposing human excreta, cleaning bedpans by hand puts healthcare staff at immense risk as they are placed in direct contact with potential splashes and spillages from the spray arms used. Not only is this an unnecessarily unhygienic task, but the risk of infection is also significantly heightened due to the potentially harmful microbes that can be aerosolised contaminating the surrounding environment and ultimately contributing to outbreaks. 

Handwashing with a spray arm also requires fume-producing chemicals that are released into the healthcare facility’s environment when used, negatively impacting the environment.

 

Using a Hospital Macerator

A single-use system comprises pulp items, including bedpans and urinals, and a hospital macerator. A hospital macerator disposes of the pulp items along with any human waste, including excreta. 

When disposing of a pulp item and human excreta, the healthcare professional opens the machine using contactless technology and places the item into the drum. The macerator then saturates the pulp and contents with water and breaks it down with cutter blades until it is an ultra-fine slurry. After two minutes, at the end of the cycle, the slurry contents are flushed down the drain, ensuring the healthcare professionals, patients and visitors have no further contact with the waste or pulp. 

Watch our video to find out how Vernacare’s Compact+ Macerator helps to keep healthcare facilities safe and prevent the spread of infection: 

 

 

Time is of the essence within healthcare facilities and the time it takes to safely dispose of human waste should not be underestimated. One study found a disposable bedpan system using macerators helped save time, was more convenient and less offensive4, meaning staff could spend more time focusing on providing care to their patients. 

By disposing of both the receptacle and the excreta contents, the source of infection is fully eliminated. As hospital macerators have adopted contactless technology, this feature significantly reduces the number of touchpoints within highly-infectious environments. 

The use of a single-use system has been further advocated by the World Health Organization in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that all “equipment should be single-use and disposable”5.

 

How Vernacare can Help

Preventing infection is likely the most important consideration for any healthcare facility. With over 50-years of first-hand experience in the industry, we’re proud to offer a full-system solution proven to prevent the spread of infection and release more time to nursing.  

Making the switch to a disposable system provides a safer solution for medical facilities and require very little attention and on-going maintenance and is much better for the environment. 

If you’d like to learn more about how Vernacare can help you effectively dispose of human excreta, get in touch. 

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References

 

1: https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/hygiene/settings/hvchap4.pdf 

2: https://www.inesss.qc.ca/fileadmin/doc/AETMIS/Rapports/Sterilisation/2009-04_en.pdf  

3: Cheng, V. et al. (2017) Hand-touch contact assessment of high-touch and mutual-touch surfaces among healthcare workers, patients, and visitors. Journal of Hospital Infection. Volume 90, Issue 3, 220–225 

4: Hallam et al (2020) COVID-19: considerations for the safe management and disposal of human excreta. 

5: https://www.who.int/publications-detail/infection-prevention-and-control-during-health-care-when-novel-coronavirus-(ncov)-infection-is-suspected-20200125

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