LETTER – Island Health’s directive to switch to plastic speculums is counter-productive

Dear editor,

In a culture that is rightly moving towards banning single-use plastics such as grocery bags, drinking straws, and cutlery, etc., imagine my dismay to discover that Island Health has directed that GP offices now utilize plastic, throw-away, single-use speculums for women’s pap smears.

According to B.C. statistics, in 2017, a total of 550,000 women received pap tests and over 20,000 women required repeat pap tests. Imagine the unnecessary amount of plastic being discarded.

How did Island Health come to the backward conclusion that the methodology utilized for generations is now somehow unacceptable? I cannot find any documents indicating there is a significant risk of cross-contamination when office equipment is properly disinfected and or sterilized. There is a well-documented procedure and policy in B.C. for best practice in cleaning, disinfection and sterilization of re-usable medical equipment. If the government insists that we must eliminate single-use plastics, I think I should be able to take my speculum home, clean it myself, store it safely and bring it with me for my next exam. Or better yet, let physicians return to the well-established/safe methodology of sterilizing reusable speculums. There is no “away” when it comes to discarding our plastics.

Barbara Mellin,


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