Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Medical Waste, Sustainability, and Operations Resarch

For many months now, we have been researching health care supply chains, with a focus on perishable products ranging from blood supply chains to medical nuclear supply chains.

In our research, we have, specifically, emphasized the impact of improper disposal of medical wastes on the environment. Our mathematical models are generalized network models in which the arc multipliers capture features of the perishable, but, life-saving, products that we are studying.

Today, CBS News is reporting on an investigation by a human rights official of the United Nations that noted that: nations pay "too little attention" to their tons of waste each year — waste that contains pathogens, blood, low levels of radioactivity, discarded needles, syringes, scalpels, expired drugs and vaccines. In many poorer nations, discarded chemicals and pharmaceutical wastes go straight to city dumps, down hospital toilets into water systems, or are burned in cement kilns that just add to dioxide emissions.

Our research on blood supply chains, from the operations management aspects, to the design, is written up in our papers:

Supply Chain Network Operations Management of a Blood Banking System with Cost and Risk Minimization
Anna Nagurney, Amir H. Masoumi, and Min Yu, to appear in Computational Management Science.

Supply Chain Network Design of a Sustainable Blood Banking System
Anna Nagurney and Amir H. Masoumi, in Sustainable Supply Chains: Models, Methods and Public Policy Implications, T. Boone, V. Jayaraman, and R. Ganeshan, Editors, Springer, London, England, 2011, in press.

Our research, to-date, on medical nuclear supply chains, which I presented recently at the INTRIM Conference at McGill University, is reported in the paper:

Medical Nuclear Supply Chain Design: A Tractable Network Model and Computational Approach
Anna Nagurney and Ladimer S. Nagurney.

According to the report, the UN investigator, Cailin Georgescu, recommended that all nations adopt better laws for managing medical waste and replace incinerators with "more environmentally friendly and safe methods of disposal" such as autoclaving, which uses pressurized steam and superheated water to disinfect waste and medical equipment.

Next week I will be speaking on Sustainability: Methodologies with Some Applications at the SAMSI Workshop, which is part of the 2011-2012 Program on Uncertainty Quantification.

One thing that I am certain about is that we need to take better care of our environment not only for us and our children but for future generations as well.

Clearly, we, in the Operations Research community, understand this, and are doing something about it. Just read Dr. Ian Frommer's wonderful blog post on the course that he has taught on Sustainability.

On my list of new courses that I am developing are courses entitled:

Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare and

Sustainable Systems.