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Waste manager cries foul over loss of medical contract

Jessica Atcheson, managing director of Atcheson Ltd Waste Services (File photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Costs have soared under a new sole-source contract for the disposal of the island’s medical waste, two healthcare providers have claimed.

A dental office showed The Royal Gazette invoices showing a final bill for the firm MediWaste to dispose of their bio-hazardous refuse that was almost nine times what they were previously billed under their arrangement with Bermuda Hospitals Board.

The service said it was only a matter of time before costs were passed on to customers.

The complaints came as a rival waste management company cried foul over BHB’s no-bid contract with MediWaste, now in effect for ten months.

The firm, Atcheson Waste Services, said it was never given the chance to pitch an option for BHB to offload medical waste disposal.

Jessica Atcheson, managing director of the Southampton-based firm, said: “If I had lost, I would have bowed out gracefully.

“But not even getting the chance to compete seems very unfair.”

Neither MediWaste nor BHB had responded to requests for comment by press time yesterday.

BHB stated last week that it signed the February 1 contract exclusively to MediWaste because the company was the only specialist option.

Ms Atcheson countered that her firm already transported medical waste for BHB. and could easily have produced a bid.

“We definitely have the means to at least produce the proposal,” she said. “BHB keeps saying no one else can do it.”

Ms Atcheson said her company could have proposed building an independent disposal facility on another site – or could have taken over the hospital’s existing unit, said to be nearing the end of its life span but still in working order.

She also said she had lost out by “at least $3,000 a month” after the transportation of the material switched to MediWaste last February – even though her business has a three-year contract with BHB that does not expire until the end of this year.

She said her company would transport medical waste from facilities outside the main hospital, such as Agape House, the Dialysis Centre at Carrick House and the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre in St David’s.

The bagged waste would be taken to the basement yard at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, where it went into a device known as a macerator.

Ms Atcheson said the end result, which she likened to “heavy sludge”, would next be taken by her company to the Tynes Bay Incinerator for final disposal.

MediWaste, which has yet to build its incinerator, has been collecting the island’s medical waste since winning the contract.

Ms Atcheson said her understanding was that MediWaste’s incinerator would use up the backlog once it began operations.

“I’ve been told they will need a bunch of it when they fire it up,” she added. “It just seems like that has breached an existing contract that my company had to compete for.”

Ms Atcheson also questioned why services generating medical waste were told to sign up with MediWaste back in March to comply with “policy” when the island was only operating under “handling guidelines” since 2015.

Both healthcare providers who spoke with the Gazette did so condition of anonymity.

The dental practice said its used its own two-gallon disposable containers for “sharps” – with BHB billing $86.20 to dispose of five containers, but MediWaste billing the company $605 for four.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous – our cost of equipment and supplies has already increased,” a staff member said. “Now this?

“Why are they charging me $600 for something that is not even built yet? Are we being charged to build this facility?”

Another business called the change in waste disposal “a fiasco”.

“From the private healthcare provider view, I can say it was total shock to find out that our medical waste disposal cost has increased by several hundreds of per cent since using MediWaste – the only option in Bermuda.

“People wonder why healthcare is so expensive.”

The business head added: “I’m not sure if will increase premiums but I wouldn’t be surprised if the insurance companies will use it as an excuse to increase premiums.

“I looked into having my own bio-waste processor. But it would cost $70,000 to $100,000.

“No healthcare provider in Bermuda can just invest such sum into processing or disposing of waste without months and years saving for it.”