Government called on to urgently vaccinate waste collection operatives

lllness among clinical waste collection operatives not yet vaccinated could see the collection and disposal of waste arising from the UK-wide COVID-19 vaccination programme face significant challenges, potentially slowing the vaccine roll-out.

This the warning from Graham Flynn, managing director of independent healthcare waste management company Anenta, which oversees healthcare waste contracts for the NHS in London and the South East of England, managing clinical waste collection services covering 300 vaccination centres, and thousands of GP surgeries and pharmacies. “We are close to a tipping point, where illness among those trained to collect healthcare and clinical waste could reach such high proportions that the collection of PPE and syringes from vaccination centres could falter, and services to the wider NHS could be seriously affected,” said Graham Flynn. “We’re already seeing record numbers of drivers calling in sick. In the last week alone we’ve had to make alternative arrangements for 15 per cent of all collections, both in relation to vaccination centres, and the collection of healthcare waste from GPs, pharmacies, and other healthcare settings. That’s only sustainable for so long.”

He added: “If drivers are not vaccinated, and continue to contract COVID-19, the collection of clinical waste could slow significantly, putting pressure on the system as long-term storage sites at vaccination centres become strained. This could not only slow the vaccination schedule, but could also delay collection of healthcare waste from healthcare settings.”

Graham Flynn emphasises that the consequence of sick drivers is a delay in both the delivery of replacement containers for sharps, and in clinical waste collection. ‘If that happens and waste builds up, safe storage becomes an issue’. He said: “For GP surgeries administering vaccines, this has an impact on the types of services they can deliver, and could affect the delivery of clinical care on site. For vaccine centres, if safe storage is not possible, that could slow the rate at which jabs can be administered.”

There is also a concern that ‘more expensive’ contingency collection measures may become necessary, all of which Anenta says could be avoided through vaccination of healthcare waste drivers. The company highlights as one of the causes of the spread of illness among clinical waste collection drivers vaccination waste being put in the wrong waste collection streams at vaccination centres. Graham Flynn said: “Proper segregation of waste is just not happening. We’ve heard of numerous cases where sharps, including vaccination jabs, have been thrown loose into waste bins, or disposed of in the general clinical waste orange bags alongside PPE, instead of being placed in designated, hard-shell, yellow plastic sealable sharps containers. As a result, sharps are loose or pierce bags when they are collected, releasing potentially infectious particles into the environment, which can be spilt on or breathed in by collection drivers.”

He added: “We are also encountering incorrectly tied clinical waste bags, which allow contaminated air to be expelled, potentially releasing COVID-laden air and other infections onto the individuals handling them. This is why we have been calling for all clinical waste bags to be swan-neck tied with a zip tie, which prevents air from escaping. The concern is that volunteers are not being properly trained. As a consequence, waste collection drivers are falling ill. This is an issue that has to be addressed.”

 

 

 

 ess among clinical waste collection operatives not yet vaccinated could see the collection and disposal of waste arising from the UK-wide COVID-19 vaccination programme face significant challenges, potentially slowing the vaccine roll-out, Graham Flynn, managing director of independent healthcare waste management company Anenta, has warned.

Anenta oversees healthcare waste contracts for the NHS in London and the South East of England, managing clinical waste collection services covering 300 vaccination centres, and thousands of GP surgeries and pharmacies. “We are close to a tipping point, where illness among those trained to collect healthcare and clinical waste could reach such high proportions that the collection of PPE and syringes from vaccination centres could falter, and services to the wider NHS could be seriously affected,” said Graham Flynn. “We’re already seeing record numbers of drivers calling in sick. In the last week alone we’ve had to make alternative arrangements for 15 per cent of all collections, both in relation to vaccination centres, and the collection of healthcare waste from GPs, pharmacies, and other healthcare settings. That’s only sustainable for so long.”

He added: “If drivers are not vaccinated, and continue to contract COVID-19, the collection of clinical waste could slow significantly, putting pressure on the system as long-term storage sites at vaccination centres become strained. This could not only slow the vaccination schedule, but could also delay collection of healthcare waste from healthcare settings.”

Graham Flynn emphasises that the consequence of sick drivers is a delay in both the delivery of replacement containers for sharps, and in clinical waste collection. ‘If that happens and waste builds up, safe storage becomes an issue’. He said: “For GP surgeries administering vaccines, this has an impact on the types of services they can deliver, and could affect the delivery of clinical care on site. For vaccine centres, if safe storage is not possible, that could slow the rate at which jabs can be administered.”

There is also a concern that ‘more expensive’ contingency collection measures may become necessary, all of which Anenta says could be avoided through vaccination of healthcare waste drivers. The company highlights as one of the causes of the spread of illness among clinical waste collection drivers vaccination waste being put in the wrong waste collection streams at vaccination centres. Graham Flynn said: “Proper segregation of waste is just not happening. We’ve heard of numerous cases where sharps, including vaccination jabs, have been thrown loose into waste bins, or disposed of in the general clinical waste orange bags alongside PPE, instead of being placed in designated, hard-shell, yellow plastic sealable sharps containers. As a result, sharps are loose or pierce bags when they are collected, releasing potentially infectious particles into the environment, which can be spilt on or breathed in by collection drivers.”

He added: “We are also encountering incorrectly tied clinical waste bags, which allow contaminated air to be expelled, potentially releasing COVID-laden air and other infections onto the individuals handling them. This is why we have been calling for all clinical waste bags to be swan-neck tied with a zip tie, which prevents air from escaping. The concern is that volunteers are not being properly trained. As a consequence, waste collection drivers are falling ill. This is an issue that has to be addressed.”

 

 

 

 

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Upcoming Events

Facilities Show 2021

ExCel London One Western Gateway Royal Victoria Dock London UK E16 1XL
18th-20th May 2021

Healthcare Estates 2021

Manchester Central, Petersfield, M2 3GX
19th - 20th October

IHEEM Dublin 2021

Croke Park, Jones' Rd, Drumcondra, Dublin 3, Ireland
1st - 2nd November 2021