Cut once, then thrown away

Cheap stainless steel scissors used to dress wounds at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim are used once and sent to landfill because it costs more to sterilise them, says Nelson Marlborough District Health Board clinical support services director James Bowyer.

The poor-quality scissors cost the health board $1.30 each, but would cost about $20 to sterilise, Mr Bowyer said.

The health board spent more than $22,000 on 17,000 single-use scissors last year. The board's surgical services manager Dot McKeown said some of those scissors, like those used in the community to cut already sterile dressings, were offered to patients.

However, scissors used in hospital wards where there was a risk of infection were put into bins and disposed of, Ms McKeown said.

Mr Bowyer said the board was exploring options for recycling single-use instruments.

Putting the scissors through the sterilising process could damage more expensive instruments through rusting and pitting as they were made from poor quality stainless steel, he said. The board would be liable if it reused single-use scissors, he said.

Good-quality reusable scissors were costing the health board thousands of dollars a year as large numbers were lost or went missing, Mr Bowyer said.

Ms McKeown said single-use scissors started being used more around 2005, but high-quality scissors were still used in operating theatres. The cost of sterilising the cheaper scissors took into account staff, decontamination and re-packaging, she said.

Health board member Fleur Hansby asked for an update on single-use scissors and their cost at a board meeting last month.

"I wanted them to check the cost of throwing scissors out versus sterilisation," she told the Marlborough Express this week.

Mrs Hansby used to work at her partner's veterinary clinic, where they sterilised instruments, and thought $20 was very expensive.

However, the board was trying to address wastage and reduce costs, she said.

The Marlborough Express