Today I finally completed a very frustrating and time consuming task of properly disposing of a biohazard needle container medical box where I kept the spent needles related to administration of a refrigerated liquid medicine prescribed for my mother. A seemingly straightforward task turned into an administrative nightmare for me. After all I was just trying to do a conscientious and civic responsible job of having a filled used medical biohazard box properly handled and destroyed by authoritative companies, as opposed to just dumping it in the common trash.
Previously, a local pharmacy had graciously cooperated by accepting the needle hazard boxes, but a recent change of policy prohibited them from doing so any longer.
Here are the different organizations that I contacted to help me with proper disposal, and the results of my communication with them.
The mail order pharmacy company: twice I contacted them. The first time I was referred to the name and phone number of the company that actually makes the container. The second time when I called the pharmacy I actually spoke with a manager explaining that it was neglect on their part not to give proper instructions to customers on how to properly dispose of a biohazard box with needles. The pharmacy should also have included a special mailer or return box that can hold the biohazard needle dispensing box for carrier pickup. And believe me, as much money as they were charging for this medicine, they could’ve easily justified a small pickup cost for the removal of these needles.
Needle container company number one: that person told me that if all my other efforts failed to call them back because there was a special shipping box they could sell me so that I could return the full needle box to an appropriate processing center for a fee. However when I called that same container company a second time, they said that no such boxes service were available. Not only that but after more carefully getting box identification information from me, I was told that they had not actually produced MY box, but rather it was from a competitor needle container (company number two) that made my box! Incompetence for the mail order pharmacy to send me to the wrong container company, and incompetence for the container company to tell me they could sell me a shipping box when they actually couldn’t!!!
I then called needle container company number two. They said they don’t actually handle return or receipt of used boxes of spent needles. That you need to call this other third party company that is contracted for that service. So then I called that contracter and the phone rang and rang and rang and nobody picked up so I gave up on them.
Then I tried calling my local city health department with an impossible voice recording tree, but with my best guess left a message. The recording and said they’d get back to me in three business days, but five business days passed with no return call. I then called my city environmental health department; their phone rang and rang and rang and rang with no pickup, no answer, no recording.
I then called back the mail order pharmacy company yet again. I spoke with a manager who said any fire department, doctor’s office or hospital will routinely and straightforwardly accept the needle container box. I complained vigorously that the first representative on the first phone call should have told me that instead of sending me to a needle container company number one that didn’t even make that box. I made it clear to him that I was quite frustrated and I felt as a manager he had been incompetent with respect to his lack of information and support for customers with these boxes.
So then I called my local fire department. Now they said they cannot accept those boxes because that’s an ambulance function that I should call the local ambulance authority.
So then I called a local ambulance authority and after couple of transfers and put on hold I was told that only they cannot accept those boxes from the general public. Yes, they do have a third party service that picks up their boxes that they use with spent needles and other unsanitary medical supplies, but that service was not available to the general public.
I then called my local hospital. After pleading and explaining the huge run around that I experienced to this point to simply try to perform my responsible civic duty of proper needle disposal, they put me on hold. Then they came back mercifully and wonderfully and told me they would make an exception and accept my box, but in general, they would not accept the boxes from the general public with spent needles, even if the general public was willing to pay for that service.
So before anybody could change their mind about this I quickly got in my car and delivered the needles to the representative I spoke with over the phone at the hospital. The entire staff at the hospital was very professional and courteous and they took the box away without giving me any paperwork or charging me any fees, and I’m done with it.
So I would say the lessons learned from this arduous and frustrating assignment are the following:
1. Do not accept any mail order medications that require any kind of disposal of biohazard or unsanitary medical supplies without firm instructions and/or shipping boxes and/or written promises of pick up services of spent items.
2. Do not expect the container companies or the city health department to help you.
3. Your best bet is to try and find a hospital, or possibly a doctor’s office where you already are an established patient, if they will take the box off your hands. Even that is no guarantee; you must be very persistent and lucky.
It is really shameful that the primary caregivers have so much work to do already, in this case I saved taxpayers 40 months of at-home license practitioner nurse services that my mother was entitled to under Medicare to receive these injections. And as a reward and an expression of appreciation for all my hard work of taking on the job of a nurse for 40 months, I get a big run around on how to properly and responsibly dispose of needles.