Hospital's medical waste found at Alaska landfill

AP News
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Posted: Oct 14, 2010 1:09 PM
Hospital's medical waste found at Alaska landfill

An Anchorage hospital was barred from using the city's landfill for a short time after a random inspection of a garbage load uncovered medical waste including needles, intravenous tubing and blood-soaked gauze.

A spokeswoman for Providence Alaska Medical Center said the waste, found two weeks ago, should have been either sterilized or incinerated.

As much as 1,400 tons of trash comes through the landfill gates in a day, Solid Waste Services director Mark Madden said. The landfill's permits require random inspections, and about a dozen loads _ at roughly 20 tons per load _ are inspected every week, he said.

"It's just part of the process of running a landfill," Madden said. "We saw a little bit more than we really cared to deal with in the load from Providence."

Hospital staff are supposed to put medical waste into a red bag, then it is given to a contractor, Entech, for treatment, according to Hultberg. She said in this case, at least one of the bags was placed into a brown or black trash bag and sent to the landfill, along with other medical waste placed into at least one other regular trash bag.

As a result, Providence had all its waste treated by Entech for a week, which cost the hospital tens of thousands of dollars, Hultberg said.

She said the hospital also took steps to improve waste disposal techniques, including additional training for staff, the use of clear garbage bags and two visual inspections of all bags before they leave the hospital.

Madden applauded the hospital's efforts to prevent future incidents with medical waste.

"We, at their request, pulled a load today and there wasn't anything (improper) in there," he said Wednesday.

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Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com