Infectious Waste:

Federal Health Care Facilities' Handling and Disposal Practices

HRD-89-84: Published: May 19, 1989. Publicly Released: Jun 20, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed public and private health care facilities' waste management policies and procedures and the effect the procedures might have on public health or environmental risks.

GAO found that the 12 health care facilities it visited had established policies and procedures for handling, treating, and disposing of medical waste, but the procedures varied significantly regarding: (1) how facilities defined and segregated infectious medical waste; (2) the storage and treatment of infectious wastes before disposal; (3) the amount of employee training; and (4) facility size, scope of services, and existing treatment capacity. GAO also found that the facilities: (1) disposed of infectious waste in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency recommendations and provided acceptable treatment methods before disposal; (2) segregated infectious waste at the source, but not all facilities stored the waste in limited-access areas; (3) offered waste management training to health care staff and waste handlers, but the scope and duration of the training varied significantly; and (4) monitored waste disposal as part of their day-to-day responsibilities.

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