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Safe Disposal of Medical Sharps Act
The enactment of Sharps disposal Act was the biggest milestone in the field of nursing (Chartier, 2014). . The bill provides a framework for proper management of sharps used in hospitals to administer medications.  The bill begins by defining the meaning of terms as used in its context, laying the foundations for its stating. A manufacturer is defined as a person or entity either physically present in USA, and causes medical sharps to be produced or imports medical sharps from another entity that is not physically located in the United States. A manufacture can also be any person who makes wholesale sales for medical sharps, and does not have the legal ownership of the brand. Secondly, the bill defines medical sharps as needles, lancets, and any other devices used to penetrate the skin so as to deliver medication. Further, it defines a program as an activity or a plan established by the manufacturer or jointly with other manufacturers for the purpose of collecting, handling, transporting, treating and disposing unwanted medical sharps.
The bill makes important highlights for safe disposal of medical sharps. It begins by stating that, an individual is not allowed to place medical sharp in the solid waste for disposal in a solid waste disposal facility. Secondly, the bill dictates that a manufacturer is under an obligation to participate in a program, either individually or jointly with other manufacturers, for collection, transportation, treatment, and proper disposal of unnecessary medical sharps which are generated by residential sources. Thirdly, a manufacturer is expected to submit a plan to the department of health outlining participation to such a program through a stewardship organization. A stewardship organization is a non-profit organization, a corporation, or a legal entity that is contracted or created by the manufacturer to implement medical sharps program. In addition, a manufacturer must submit a plan to operate a program or join a program before initiating sales of medical sharps in commonwealth nations. Further, a manufacturer or a steward organization is expected to begin a program plan within 90 days after it has been approved or by July 1, depending on which comes earlier. Moreover, after every four years, a manufacturer or steward organization is required to update its program plan. The updated plan should be submitted to the department for review and approval. It is also included in the bill that a manufacturer or stewardship organization should cater for all administrative and operational costs that are associated with the implementation of the program. These costs include the costs of collection, transportation, and disposal of the unwanted sharps. Further, all administrative costs and oversight costs incurred by the department in implementing a program and its constant evaluation shall be paid by the manufacturer or the steward organization. The amount shall be paid annually as it shall be determined by the department. Lastly, a manufacturer or steward organization is not allowed to charge a fee at collection centres for the management of used medical sharps.
The bill was sponsored by Kay Khan. The co-sponsors were John P. Fresolo, Benjamin Swan, Timothy J. Toomey, Barbara A. L’Italien, David B. Sullivan, and Brian P. Wallace.
The background of the formation of the bill was informed by the adverse effects that resulted from poor disposal of sharps. According to the proponents of the bill, the nature of sharps management and disposal then was dangerous and life threatening. The cases of needle stick injuries that were reported to have occurred outside the hospital settings were considered unacceptably high (Mathur, Dwivedi, Hassan, & Misra, 2011). Therefore, there was a need to have a more controlled environment with strict procedures for handling and managing sharps wastes.
The implications of the act are diverse in nature. To begin with, the number of people that will be at risk of infection from poor disposal of syringes and other sharps will be reduced. Moreover, the number of medical practitioners exposed to the risk of infections due to poor disposal of wastes is expected to decline. Further, spread of ‘blood-borne’ diseases will decrease by significant levels in hospitals. Arguably, the spread of HIV through sharps will be the biggest achievement of the act (Perry, Jagger, Parker, Phillips, & Gomaa, 2012).
Since sharps are bio-hazardous materials, it is obvious that injuries that result from them pose a large threat to public health. Sharps penetrate the skin making it possible for this form of waste to spread ‘blood-borne’ disease pathogens. Consequently, the spread of these pathogens is directly linked with the transmission of blood-borne diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Arguably, every health care professional should be supportive for such a legislation since they are the most exposed to the risk of transmission of these diseases whenever they handle sharps waste. The aforementioned diseases are currently incurable meaning that improper disposal of wastes put the lives of the nurse at risk. This situation further makes it clear as to the reason nurses should be supportive of the act. In addition to that, the professional qualification of a nurse requires them to be mindful of the general public through preventive mechanisms. The general public is exposed to risks due to poor disposal of these materials. For example, in the event the hazardous materials are not separated from ordinary wastes, people can unknowingly come into contact with them. Some people may reuse or misuse them. The direct contact with sharps may lead to contamination of diseases. In that regard, the responsibilities of nursing in infection prevention will have failed. Thus, the act is very important to the nursing profession.
Chartier, Y. (Ed.). (2014). Safe management of wastes from health-care activities. World Health Organization.
Mathur, V., Dwivedi, S., Hassan, M. A., & Misra, R. P. (2011). Knowledge, attitude, and practices about biomedical waste management among healthcare personnel: A cross-sectional study. Indian Journal of Community Medicine36(2), 143.
Perry, J., Jagger, J., Parker, G., Phillips, E. K., & Gomaa, A. (2012). Disposal of sharps medical waste in the United States: Impact of recommendations and regulations, 1987-2007. American journal of infection control40(4), 354-358.