Medical costs

One of the things that we all are exposed to is the ever rising cost of medical treatments. Whether that’s through the NHS, which we all fund through taxation here in the UK, or private health insurance, funded either privately or by nature of our employment, the escalation in the cost of providing care to us hits us all in the pocket eventually.

This has been brought home to me by observing the disposable culture in the hospital I’m currently staying in. The amount of stuff that gets used once and thrown away, rather than reused (or recycled) is amazing.

Now, to be fair I do understand that when dealing with body fluids, especially ones that are potentially infected with unpleasant diseases, the normal routes for reuse and recycling may well be closed off. And there are a large number of situations where the safety of the patient is going to come before concerns about the environment or the cost. But at the same time, I can also see that there is a huge opportunity for reuse too.

I guess what crystallised this for me was an accident that I had with my endsponge drainage system today. I was sitting on the bed, and went to stand up, only to discover that I was standing on the catheter that runs from the sponges to the vacuum flask. The primary result was that the catheter was pulled loose from the sponges at a conveniently (and probably carefully) situated “Y” join, preventing the endosponges being dragged from my body. For which I am eternally grateful. But the secondary result was that the vacuum flask immediately devacuumed, leaving me with no way to run the endosponges.

In the end it took 2 hours to get a replacement unit from the operating theatres to replace it. We got several *other* vacuum drainage flasks before that. But none of them were compatible with the Endosponges. And the devacuumed flask is not refillable, despite there being plumbed-in vacuum lines in every room in the hospital.

Worse, they don’t even appear to be recycleable, despite appearing to be made from extremely sturdy polycarbonate, which ought to easily withstand being medically autoclaved.

As an outsider looking in, I do wonder just how much money could be saved by standardising on a small selection of vacuum flasks covering a range of pressures, with standard fittings that can be attached to anything that needs a vacuum source to operate, that can be topped up from the hospital vacuum system whilst in use, and that can eventually be emptied and medically autoclaved, before being locally evacuated with fresh vacuum locally, at least some minimal number of times before eventual complete disposal.

My treatment will eat through at least 20-odd of these flasks; even halving the cost of that (I’m assuming that as with all medical devices, these things won’t be cheap!) starts to look quite attractive.

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