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Medical refrigeration: what to look for

by
01 January 2015, at 12:00a.m.

CAROLYN HOLLAND brand manager at Lec Medical explains why investment in acceptable medical refrigeration should be a high priority to ensure that the storage of drugs meets all the essential criteria

WHILST all practices are aware that vaccines and other products should be stored at certain temperatures, and that certain controlled drugs should have secure storage, it’s often easy to overlook one of the most vital yet unassuming necessities within your facility: adequate medical refrigeration.

Against a backdrop of recent economic and financial challenges, this is particularly disturbing as even the safest of drugs can become dangerous when they are not stored correctly and out of date vaccines will become ineffective.

Given that the safe storage of veterinary medicinal products (VMPs) falls under the scope of inspections carried out by both the VMD and the RCVS practice standards scheme, it pays to ensure that your storage of drugs meets all the essential criteria. Failure to do so could result in prosecution.

Many veterinary medicines and drugs need secure and safe storage in specialist medical refrigerators that also provide strict temperature control and security.

Domestic fridges are totally inadequate. Not only do they raise serious issues of safety and security, if the drugs are spoilt the resulting wastage would prove expensive at best, but lethal at worst.

VMPs should be stored at the correct temperature in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommendations. This needs to be monitored by the use of maximum and minimum thermometers to check that temperatures do not fluctuate from the manufacturers’ recommended range.

Medicines should also be stored in areas away from excessive light and/or moisture and VMPs should be stored in areas that are not accessible to the public or pets.

Medical fridges are specifically designed to maintain an internal temperature between +2º C and +8ºC and come with a variety of features to ensure that they stay at that constant temperature. It’s wise to consider investing in a medical fridge that includes a temperature display that can be read without opening the refrigerator, and one that displays temperatures accurately to 0.1 decimal place.

Ongoing cost savings can also be made by purchasing a medical fridge that boasts extremely high energyefficiency credentials. Look for those models that incorporate R600a refrigerant, as these can use up to 45% less energy than other models, meaning practices save significantly on running costs.

With security being an issue, it pays to ensure that medical fridges are protected from unauthorised access to potentially harmful substances. By investing in a fridge with a lock as standard, practices can restrict authorised entry and protect against the catastrophe that could result from any stock going missing or ending up spoilt.

Practices should also choose equipment that includes a variety of audio and visual alarms to alert them immediately when the fridge falls below the optimum temperature range. “Open door” alarms that set off a high-pitched audible noise will also indicate when a fridge door has been left open for more than one minute, and may even help save the fridge contents.

Practices should only buy medical refrigeration from a reputable manufacturer that supplies quality products and offers a nationwide network of service engineers in the event of a breakdown. Extended warranties without exclusions should also be a key consideration when making a purchase.

For those unable to invest in new equipment, temperature mapping your medical refrigeration is a smart investment as it will ensure that your existing equipment is functioning optimally. As well as offering priceless peace of mind, it can even prolong the life of a medical fridge. It is recommended that this is carried out annually.

Lec Medical’s refrigerators feature a fitted lock, an innovative anti-microbial handle, wire shelves and basket, and come with a two-year parts and labour warranty as standard.

Most under-counter models also feature a new advanced digital controller, internal light and fitted rollers for ease of movement. Selected models are also available with a glass door, if required.

A portable cooling system is also available for use when administering drugs and vaccines away from the practice. Holding the temperature inside between 2 and 8ºC for up to 30 hours, it also features an inbuilt digital LED thermometer.

Medical fridges are key: they should never be ignored and expected to work tirelessly behind the scenes without the proper investment they deserve. If in doubt, arrange an immediate health check to ensure that your equipment is in tip-top condition.