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A recent article in the Baltimore Sun has outlined a growing trend in hospitals: the reuse and recycling of one-time-use tools. Instead of tossing these tools (which include "compression sleeves, laparoscopic ports, and other medical and surgical items") after a single use, one-quarter of the hospitals in America are now cleaning them and putting them back to work.

According to the article:

Reusing equipment isn’t new. Hospitals used to routinely clean and reuse their own items, but fears about the cleaning abilities of individual facilities led manufacturers to beginselling single-use devices, said Makary. He estimates those items now make up about 15 percent of what hospitals use.

The devices became increasingly sophisticated and costly, pushing hospitals back in the other direction, he said. That FDA regulation also led nearly all hospitals to send the equipment to third-party reprocessors, who sell items back to hospitals for about half the cost of new ones.

While many people in the healthcare industry are convinced that it is safe to reuse hopsital items, some patients’ advocates are not convinced. According to Michael Bennett, the president of the Coalition for Patients’ Rights in Maryland.

"It is unconscionable for a health care worker or an institution to subject an unsuspecting and uninformed patient to unnecessary risk just to save a few dollars," Bennett said. "While there very well may be manufacture or sales self-interest in the ‘single use’ classification of some devices, would anyone be willing to use a possibly safety-compromised parachute? There are plenty of other areas in health care where money can be saved without jeopardizing patient safety, such as better infection control and fewer errors."

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