Response - San-I-Pak
HEALTH SOLUTIONS SPOTLIGHT
Arthur McCoy outlines how this healthcare
waste management company is prepared to handle the
growing concerns regarding infectious disease.
etween January 2008 and mid-February 2008, the World
Health Organization tracked 17 cases of emerging diseases, including H5N1 or bird flu, a disease that has
killed roughly 60% of infected humans. Although the roots of
California-based healthcare waste management company SanI-Pak date back 30 years to a time when hospitals in California
were required to provide a cleaner and greener alternative to
medical waste incinerators, the privately held organization sees
its mission as more critical today than it was in 1978.
“In 1978, a majority of healthcare institutions were responsibly
practicing on-site treatment of infectious waste. The problem
was that the primary technology, incineration, was flawed,”
said Arthur McCoy, senior vice president.
As EPA regulations clamped down with stricter air emission
requirements, many hospitals temporarily outsourced to an offsite service provider. Unfortunately, this temporary reaction to
the environmental regulations turned into a permanent practice
for a majority of the hospitals in the US. With this shift, San-IPak saw many hospitals delegate the responsibility of managing
infectious waste from
infection control and
Until now, the company witnessed the
perceived convenience of outsourcing
supersede the safety
and sustainable values
that accompany on-site treatment of infectious waste.
“Yesterday’s issues were environmentally driven,” said McCoy.
“Today’s threats of emerging, manmade, and natural disasters
warrant core infection control protocol: treat at the point of
The company, which manufactures and delivers infectious waste
treatment equipment to hospitals across the nation, has evolved
from dealing with clean environmental alternatives to dealing
with infection control issues. However, the company’s primary system, a proprietary onsite automated sterilizer compactor, remains
the same. The change, said McCoy, is the additional value.
“Our traditional customer 30 years ago was motivated to treat
onsite primarily to experience the cost savings benefits,” he said.
“Today, the motives of our clients have broadened to improved
infection control practices, operational and environmental sustainability, and community responsibility.”
San-I-Pak infectious waste treatment systems cover three areas of
healthcare waste disposal. Its sterilization equipment can handle
anywhere between 25 pounds to thousands of pounds of waste
per hour. Each unit includes an automated and ergonomic material handling system that provides a touch-free operation from
the point of generation, collection, treatment, and disposal.
A programmable logic controller (PLC) coordinates each waste
cycle to improve efficiency and safety. Locking sterilization
chambers ensure no waste is discharged before the sterilization
process is completed, and the company’s strip printer gives
clients the time, temperature, and pressure for each cycle, as
well as a long list of monitoring and tracking capabilities.
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Healthcare Waste Management
The San-I-Pak system also acts as a dual-waste system, providing
a compactor function for general waste while sterilizing infectious
waste. In addition, the company developed a line of shredders,
which, although not required as part of the sterilization process,
still provide automation and space-efficiency benefits to hospitals.
On the service side, San-I-Pak offers three tiers of training. Tier
one begins when the company partners with a hospital. Because
the product is not a one-size-fits-all system, the company begins
by identifying the customer’s specific needs. “We look at waste
volumes and physical layout, then we come back and design a
specific piece of equipment for the customer’s particular application,” said McCoy. “While we’re manufacturing their systems,
we fly customers’ engineers out to Northern California and run
them through a one-week training course at our factory.”
While installing the system, San-I-Pak conducts tier two of
the process: onsite training for the customer’s operators and
engineering crew. Two months after commencing operation of
the equipment, the company flies back out to perform the third
tier, a re-training of the customer’s staff. The two-month followup is an evolution of the San-I-Pak business package and was
added to its service portfolio roughly five years ago.
The mission of San-I-Pak is to design, develop, and market new
patented technologies in the healthcare industry for infection
control and crisis management applications. McCoy said
although medical waste management was once perceived as a
trash issue, it has become a much more complex matter. “In
years past, operational sustainability or emergency preparedness
was not as critical as it is today,” he said.
Since 9/11, San-I-Pak has gained greater visibility regarding its
role in emergency preparedness. The company realized many
hospitals were not capable of dealing with the surge capacity
they were forced to face, which devastates a hospital’s operations.
As a result, many of the company’s clients build in extra surge
capacity when designing their equipment.
Stanford University Medical Center was able to independently
function and process the extra infectious waste without any
Other companies, such as Waste Management, Inc., see the need
to provide custom services for healthcare institutions. As a result,
a partnership between San-I-Pak and Waste Management, called
Waste Management Healthcare Solutions, was formed to provide
guaranteed reliability, satisfaction, and environmental liability
indemnification for services rendered. Customers are guaranteed
a product that works and an infrastructure capable of covering
environmental regulations and rules. “It’s the only national
program providing comprehensive cradle-to-grave coverage,
including onsite treatment of infectious waste,” McCoy said.
San-I-Pak’s product is represented in a sizable number of hospitals in the country, but an overwhelming majority of healthcare
institutions are electing to ship their waste offsite. Still, the
healthcare community is beginning to understand the importance of protecting the public by treating onsite, said McCoy.
“They realize this is an infection control and sustainability
issue,” he said. “From a public perspective, when folks on the
street learn their local hospital is shipping infectious waste
through their communities, there is an immediate negative
reaction, especially when they learn that in most cases it costs
more to ship it out than to process material onsite.”
As the concern regarding healthcare costs continues to grow in
the public and private sectors, McCoy believes the longevity of
a private company such as San-I-Pak will influence hospitals to
look at his company for their needs. “In our niche industry, not
many private companies stay in business for 30 years. The independent success of our shareholders has enabled our company to
pursue a quest to contribute to society and healthcare through
innovation and not greed. That’s unique,” he concluded. E
“Most of our systems are designed with that surge capacity, sometimes as much as 300% or 400%, to ensure total uptime,” said
McCoy. “The alternative for hospitals is shipping infectious waste
offsite through a commercial hauler, which offers no surge capacity.”
In the San Jose area, for example, a situation recently occurred
in which hospitals were forced to segregate infectious waste using
universal precautions, which identify an over-classifying of medical waste under crisis conditions to avoid cross contamination,
and waste volumes spiked to the point that the offsite service
provider was unable to meet the extra demand. San-I-Pak client
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