A recent news story on a celibate monk who was infected with HIV—along with nearly 300 others—when a doctor reused syringes has put a spotlight on the practice of reusing syringes throughout the world. According to the World Health Organization, over 2 million people are infected with diseases due to reusing syringes or needles every year, and the problem is not restricted to poor and developing countries. Sadly, it happens throughout the western world including in clinics in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.

If you want to ensure your clinic is safe from reused or improperly disposed needles, here are the four steps you need to take:

1. Educate every member of the clinic staff about the risks of used syringes

If you own, work at or operate a clinic that uses syringes, you need to understand that the phenomena of reusing needles can happen anywhere, and the key to avoiding it is education. Everyone who works at your clinic – from the injection administers to the accountants to the cleaning crew – need to understand the risks of used needles and how they can expose people to deadly diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV as well as Ebola and malaria.

With the right education on risks and safety protocols, everyone should understand that there are absolutely no financial justifications for reusing needles, and that the time required to dispose of old needles properly and find new needles is critical to the safety and well being of your patients, your staff and your business.

2. Invest in smart syringes

Smart syringes are syringes that are impossible to re-use. After being used a single time, these syringes have locking mechanism that retracts the needle or locks the plunger from moving. Even if someone were to get into your medical waste and dig these needles out, they would not be able to reuse them.

Investing in smart syringes gives your clinic an extra layer of security. It ensures no one can go wildly against your staff education and training and re-use your syringes. If you want to protect your clinic, your staff and your patients, syringes like these are essential.

3. Integrate a safe disposal procedure in your clinic

You certainly do not want to throw used syringes into a regular garbage can, where they can be picked up by anyone walking by including a child. Additionally, they can poke out of a cheap plastic garbage bag, hurting your cleaning staff.

Not only is disposing of needles in this way dangerous, it is illegal according to Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, you need to have a disposal container that cannot be opened by anyone who does not have the right clearance, and you need a medical waste service to pick up your used syringes.  

4. Find an affordable and efficient medical waste disposal company

Even in Western countries, reports the WHO, one of the reasons for re-using old syringes is to save money. As any scrupulous clinic operator knows, this is not an acceptable reason to reuse syringes. However, you can work on lowering the overall cost of your syringes without cutting dangerous corners.

Investing in smart syringes may increase the cost you pay for your syringes, but it decreases your liability. Call your insurer to see if investing in safety measures like smart syringes lowers your premiums for your medical malpractice or clinic insurance. Additionally, try to save money by shopping around for the right medical waste disposal company.

There are companies running locally that pick up your needles or accept them from you at a drop off spots. However, there are also companies that allow you to mail back used syringes. Consider everything from the amount of payroll hours you devote to shipping or transporting needles as well as the quote from the medical disposal company.

Once you have these elements in place, you can assure yourself and your patients that your clinic is completely safe from the threat of used needles.