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Furbert silent on reviewing MediWaste incinerator plans in 2020

Protesters against the MediWaste incinerator approved for Southside in St David’s outside the House of Assembly last Friday to meet with the Premier (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

A St David’s MP standing with residents condemning plans for a medical waste incinerator at Southside was chairwoman of the authority that reviewed plans for the facility two years ago.

The Environmental Authority met in August 2020 to review a host of queries about the operations of MediWaste, the company that signed a ten-year agreement to take over disposal of the island’s medical waste from the hospital.

The authority, chaired by Tinée Furbert, Minister of Social Development and Seniors, approved draft construction permits for the project in September 2020.

Ms Furbert, government MP for St George’s South, joined a call for a public meeting on the issue last month with fellow area MP Lovitta Foggo for St David’s, citing concerns from constituents.

Area residents said they had seen no notice of the approval for the facility, which by then had been given the green light by the Department of Planning to proceed on industrially zoned land.

Controversy deepened after containers of bio-hazardous material were ordered to be moved from the verge of a road in Southside.

They were taken last week to a more secure site within the airport dump.

Ms Furbert addressed a protest over the containers on December 1, telling the group Concerned Citizens of St David’s: “I do not take human life lightly.

“I think it is very important that it is not business as usual.”

She called for firm regulations on the handling of bio-hazardous waste, adding: “I want the area residents to know that this does not sit well with me as an MP.”

But when the EA convened on August 26, 2020, the group heard “a construction permit application for a facility containing two medical waste incinerators and one pet crematorium”.

The application cited the plant’s intended location on Waller’s Point Road in Southside.

Ms Furbert chaired the meeting, at which the Department of Environment and Natural Resources agreed MediWaste would have to confirm “agreements with the Bermuda Hospitals Board and Ministry of Public Works to accept the wastes/waste products before an operating licence application will be considered in addition to permission from the Department of Planning and the landowner”, the Bermuda Land Development Company, which is chaired by Ms Foggo.

Ms Furbert was asked for comment yesterday, but a response was not received by press time.

At an EA meeting one month later, the group heard that the pet crematorium would be capable of accommodating animals up to the size of “goats, large dogs and sheep”.

MediWaste responded to a query over odours near the facility, telling the authority: “Untreated waste will be refrigerated. There is no smell from the incineration process.”

Ms Furbert was no longer chair of the EA by the meeting last May when the authority approved MediWaste’s operating licence, pending the setting of new conditions.

Former Progressive Labour Party Senator Davida Morris chaired the meeting.

Residents subsequently protested they were never notified, with the two MPs standing in solidarity with the group.

Ms Furbert speculated to The Royal Gazette that the Covid-19 disruption might have distracted the community, adding: “It begs the question of what responsibilities private businesses have to inform the public of their ambitions.”

On Friday, residents met with David Burt to call for a review of the MediWaste approval.

Hospital defends no-bid contract for medical waste disposal

A group protesting the establishment of a medical waste incinerator in St David’s has queried how the Bermuda Hospitals Board could delegate the disposal of the waste without issuing a request for proposal.

A BHB spokeswoman told the Gazette that MediWaste had been awarded a sole-source contract because no one else was available to take on the job.

BHB followed its procurement policies and financial instructions, with approvals given in line with its governance framework for contracts of this size.

BHB posted contract details online in its annual Pati listing in December, 2021.

The spokeswoman said: “While most contracts at BHB are put out to tender, there are exceptions and a single/sole source justification process is required when this happens, and this was completed for the MediWaste contract.

“The justification was that there were no other providers who could dispose of medical waste in Bermuda, which is a highly specialised service, and prices quoted were favourable to BHB.

“BHB was only responsible for the destruction of medical waste, with transportation managed by the Department of Health, independent of BHB.

“At the time of the original approval process, due diligence was undertaken by the BHB procurement department. A Construction Permit had been given by the Department of Environment & Natural Resources, as well as planning approval in principal.”

The contract was approved by the hospital’s board in September 2021 – but there were still “actions required before the contract would be activated”.

“From February, 2022, MediWaste confirmed they would take on management of BHB’s waste and in March 2022 an announcement was made by MediWaste about providing medical waste management for the island.”

She said the move cut costs and helped the hospital run more efficiently.

Moving the responsibility from hospitals to the private sector was said to be in keeping with international standards.

“BHB had previously become the default provider of the service as no one else managed medical waste on island.

“For BHB, this caused congestion and is not BHB’s area of speciality – so we are now able to focus on our core responsibilities of delivering patient care.”

To review minutes of the Environmental Authority, click on the PDFs under “Related Media”.

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Published December 07, 2022 at 8:04 am (Updated December 07, 2022 at 8:07 am)

Furbert silent on reviewing MediWaste incinerator plans in 2020

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