The life cycle of equipment is fairly simple, but one process that seems to cause problems is deciding when to condemn and how to dispose of equipment.
When looking at condemnation and disposal, the engineer in charge of the department should have the experience, knowledge, and authority to decide when a piece of equipment should be scrapped and removed from use.
The reasons for condemning equipment will usually be:
- Beyond economical repair - Where equipment comes in and the cost of repairing it is considered too high after looking at the current value (taking depreciation into account), and the age of the equipment.
- Technically obsolete - Parts and service support are no longer available.
- Clinically obsolete - The clinician using the device (or manufacturer) recommend replacement for clinical reasons. (Diagnostic ultrasound imaging usually becomes clinically obsolete after 5 years due to the rapid improvements in imaging technology, but can still be used and supported by the supplier.)
- Equipment that has been damaged by contamination.
The information supplied to the user must include the date of condemnation, whom the equipment belongs to and who authorised the condemnation. This would usually be the EBME Manager on a condemnation form.
When sending out the notification of condemnation, copies should be sent to senior managers responsible for procurement, and users of the equipment. An equipment condemning note/memo should be individually numbered and logged onto the equipment database with an individual job number, equipment description, including the make, model, serial number, control (asset) number, purchase date (age), reason for condemning and any additional information.
You should also state the equipment location (Dept / Ward) and at which Hospital. If the manager/user requires further information, contact details must be added, such as your telephone, e-mail, fax, etc. Finally, the EBME manager should sign off the condemnation letter.
If a replacement is required the cost for new equipment needs to be included in the capital bids processes (where the equipment is over £5000) giving financial priority to the most urgent purchase based on need and risk.
A record of all condemnations should be kept on the database.
Once the equipment has been condemned it should be quarantined or thrown away.
To quarantine the equipment means removing it from clinical use and putting it somewhere it cannot be used which is allocated as an area for scrapped equipment.
There may be an alternative use for this equipment:
- Third world charity
- Research project
- Sold on to vetinary practice, etc.
If there is an alternative use, the equipment may be held in the quarantine area until it can be handed over. Whoever takes the equipment must sign a form agreeing that the equipment is 'taken as seen'. All service and inventory labels must be removed, and all patient information deleted (where the device has IT storage capability)
The equipment that cannot be found an alternative use must be disposed of safely. This will usually include:
- Removal of lead acid, Nickel Cadmium or other alkaline batteries for separate disposal in line with trust policies.
- Evacuation of Cathode ray tubes to prevent the risk of implosion (Usually by breaking off the nipple at the back of the tube).
- Removal of in line fuses.
- Cleaning and decontamination.
- Removal of all means to power up the device. (i.e. On hard wired devices the mains cable should be cut off.)
- Removal of all hoses able to pressurise a device (if driven by gases)
Once these precautions have been taken, the equipment may be thrown in the skip to be taken to the local landfill site, or incinerated where appropriate.
Author: John Sandham IEng MIIE MIHEEM