(and no, I’m not talking about the Leafs)

Somehow, when I started at UHN, I quickly gained the title of “team doctor”.  Never mind that the closest I ever came to being a medical professional was my university housemate Phil, who left our Organic Chemistry Specialist program to pursue med school…I worked in a hospital, and that was close enough for the team (the title stuck with me for years until Dan, who also worked in a hospital and at least had contact with patients, joined the team as our goalie and quickly established his professional expertise by fashioning a splint from a cardboard beverage case left by a another team and hockey tape).

And while my medical advice is (and should be) limited to “wash your hands” and endless MEAT vs. RICE debates, the one thing I do know is garbage…and hospital garbage at that.  Sure Phil can probably tell a subdural hematoma from a subarachnoid haemorrhage, and Dan has a wicked glove hand, but I know where to find the recycling symbol on an empty plastic jug.

The thing about hospital garbage is that it’s very much like other garbage, with the exception that we tend to have a bit more Biomedical Waste (sometimes referred to outside of the hospital as “ewww” and “ick”).  And because we have more Biomedical Waste than, for example, your average professional hockey team (easy with the jokes now, people), people tend to hold us to higher standards and have special rules.  Which is why I’ve put down my hockey stick for a couple of periods and come up with…


 Nine Things You Should Know About Biomedical Waste At UHN

(And Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Ask)

  1.  Biomedical Waste is disposed of in yellow or red bags and sharps containers.  Yellow bags and containers are sent for autoclaving (steam sterilization), red are sent for incineration.
  2. Things that should go into yellow bags include tubing or IV bags with any visible blood, items heavily contaminated with blood (the band-aid from a boo boo is not biomedical waste), drainage sets and suction canisters.
  3. Things that should go into a yellow sharps container include stuff like needles, blades, sutures, and exposed IV spikes…even if unused.
  4. Things that shouldn’t go into yellow bags and containers include drugs (see #9 below), general isolation waste, packaging, regular garbage, your lunch and the sports page.
  5. Urine and feces are typically not Biomedical Waste, despite often being thought of as “ewww” and “ick”, and can be disposed of in the regular garbage.  The only exceptions are if the urine or feces have visible blood.  Because of the “ewww” and “ick” factors, please dispose of diapers and related wastes respectfully so as to not make a mess for our cleaners (e.g., double bag).
  6. Things that should be disposed of in red bags and sharps containers are cytotoxic waste (i.e., anything that has come into contact with cytotoxic drugs), anatomical bits, and nasty infectious items such as waste associated with CJD and, dare I say, Ebola.
  7. Confusion alert – please read the following carefully!!!  At PMH (only), all Biomedical Waste in patient care areas is considered to be cytotoxic and should be disposed of in red bags and containers.  At all other UHN locations, red bags and containers need to be specially obtained should disposal of cytotoxic waste be needed.
  8. Waste medications are not biomedical waste, and disposing of as such is illegal.  Waste drugs should be disposed of in white and blue Rx bins.
  9. So much information, so little time…if you’re not sure…ask!  (edward.rubinstein@uhn.ca).

So…keep your stick on the ice, head up, and dispose of Biomedical Waste properly…good advice for all!


Links to the Outside

  • Climate change is bad for hockey, and the NHL wants to do something about it…read the league’s 2014 Sustainability Report at http://www.nhl.com/green/report/, and please refrain from jokes about the Leafs and goal scoring droughts.