Contaminated medical waste turns up at city dump

Contaminated medical waste from Providence Alaska Medical Center was discovered during a random load inspection at the Anchorage Regional Landfill, the Alaska Watchdog website reports.

The bags included items infected with human blood and other fluids, used IV tubing, contaminated needles and other waste, Solid Waste Services Director Mark Madden, who oversees the landfill, told the Anchorage Daily News. Providence Alaska Medical Center was temporarily barred from using the landfill.

Becky Hultberg, Providence Alaska's regional director of communications and marketing, told Alaska Watchdog that the red bags that such waste usually goes into had been placed with other hospital waste in general black or brown plastic trash bags. "This issue was, waste that should have been disposed of through incineration or sterilization was placed with other waste going to the landfill," she said. Normally, medical waste is placed in a red bag and then sent to a contractor, Entech, for treatment.

Due to the temporary ban on using the landfill, Providence was forced to send all of its waste--both medical and non-medical--to be treated by Entech for one week, which cost the hospital tens of thousands of dollars, Hultberg said.

Providence has since rewritten its waste disposal policies to prevent a recurrence. The medical center now uses clear garbage bags, instead of opaque ones, and all bags undergo two visual inspections before they leave the hospital.

Madden offered kudos for the hospital's efforts to prevent repeat incidents. "We, at their request, pulled a load today and there wasn't anything [improper] in there," he said.

To learn more:
- read the Alaska Watchdog article
- here's the Anchorage Daily News article

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