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BHB insists Atcheson contract never included medical waste disposal

A hospital macerator machine, used to sterilise medical waste, is about to be shut down with the outsourcing of the job to a private firm (File photograph)

A business protesting that it never got a fair shot at bidding to dispose of Bermuda’s medical waste has insisted it had been handling biohazardous waste under its contract with the hospital.

But Bermuda Hospitals Board has stated that its contract with Atcheson Waste Services “has never included medical waste disposal”.

The company spoke out after BHB defended awarding a sole-source contract to another firm, MediWaste, saying no other company could take on the highly specialised job and that MediWaste’s prices were “favourable”.

BHB’s contract with Atcheson, from January 1, 2020 to the end of this year, describes its services as “trash collection and disposal – BHB campus locations”.

The majority of BHB’s medical waste is produced within King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

But company head Jessica Atcheson said her business had been picking up medical waste from BHB sites outside the main hospital – and had been cut out of business once BHB contracted MediWaste in February.

The MediWaste deal sparked commotion in the East End, where MediWaste’s approval to build on Southside escaped notice from St David’s residents.

Protesters from the area also queried the uncontested contract for MediWaste.

Ms Atcheson said her company could have pitched its own proposal to BHB – and had lost out on hospital business under her company’s still-active contract.

A BHB spokeswoman said: “Atcheson continue to have a contract with BHB for the collection and disposal of non-medical trash.

“This previously included transporting the end product from the macerator to Tyne’s Bay, but this is considered general trash as it has been sterilised and shredded.

“Nothing in the existing contract has changed. They remain an active service provider to BHB to this day.”

BHB said that Atcheson were “retained by the BHB to truck general waste, which is an entirely different business to the destruction of medical waste”.

“MediWaste were some way through their approval process for building a medical waste disposal facility at the time discussions with BHB started. There were no other providers at that time.”

Ms Atcheson maintained last week that her company had carried medical waste from facilities outside KEMH to the hospital’s basement yard to be destroyed – then took the sterilised remnants to the Tynes Bay Incinerator for final disposal.

Opponents of outsourcing the disposal to Southside have queried why BHB did not consider leasing its waste disposal units, known as macerators, which sterilise hazardous waste without producing emissions.

The hospital spokeswoman said: “As our macerators are at the end of their life, it is not an option to lease them and we would prefer not to have medical waste managed on a busy hospital site as it creates congestion and is a distraction from our core service of delivering patient care.”

She said that the machines had been retained for the first year of BHB’s contract with MediWaste as waste disposal transitioned to the new company.

It was called “a short-term risk management decision as we were transferring a service to a new private provider”.

Now BHB’s equipment, approaching ten years on the job, is “ready to be decommissioned as it is at the end of its useful life, and we do not want to manage medical waste on a busy hospital site”.

The spokeswoman added: “Since February 2022 we have paid MediWaste to dispose of our medical waste, so the macerators have not been used.

“This has reduced congestion on our site, allowed staff to focus on other duties and helped us control costs.”

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Published December 15, 2022 at 7:34 am (Updated December 15, 2022 at 7:34 am)

BHB insists Atcheson contract never included medical waste disposal

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