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Bermuda lacks clear medical waste disposal policy

The site where a MediWaste incinerator plant has been approved on industrially zoned land on Wallers Point Road in Southside (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Bermuda appears to lack a definitive policy when it comes to the handling and disposal of medical waste, according to a waste management company.

It comes against a backdrop of dismay at the East End, where St David’s residents oppose the construction of the MediWaste incinerator approved for Southside.

Municipal waste incinerators are not permitted to handle clinical waste, according to a source familiar with the regulations, but it is “current standard practice” for the industry itself to manage the disposal of biowaste — in keeping with the Clean Air Act.

In recent years, transportation and storage of medical waste were said to have been covered by the Department of Health.

But policies now lie with MediWaste, the private company that took charge of the island’s clinical waste disposal after signing a ten-year contract in February with Bermuda Hospitals Board.

Details emerged after the head of another firm, Atcheson Waste Services, which has a general waste disposal contract with BHB, protested that it was not given a chance to bid on the contract.

Jessica Atcheson, the managing director of the company, said: “I have been trying to see Bermuda’s medical waste policy since March.” .

She said the island appeared to operate under “guidelines” for the industry.

Ms Atcheson added that the last word on handling the collection, transportation and destruction of biowaste had come in 2015, when supervision of waste transportation was transferred to the Department of Health.

According to correspondence seen by The Royal Gazette, the department handled the island’s collection and transportation of medical waste for free.

The complimentary service went to BHB, which then destroyed the waste at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

But once MediWaste took over, BHB and the health department ceased to be involved.

The tender process for government departments is bound by the code of practice for project management and procurement.

But BHB, as a quango, is not a government department and follows its own independent tender process.

In 2015, the Department of Health and BHB drew up “handling guidelines” for the community on handling medical waste.

The Royal Gazette understands those guidelines are now under the purview of MediWaste, regulated by the Environmental Authority.

Questions on the policy and whether it would be altered by the firm were e-mailed to MediWaste on Friday.

The Gazette received no response by press time last night.

We also posed questions to the Ministry of Health on the regulations for the storage of medical waste.

The refuse was being kept in roadside shipping containers at Southside, but was moved to the airport dump after St David’s residents protested.

Among queries was how long the waste was expected to remain at the dump.

No responses had come by last night.

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Published December 19, 2022 at 7:55 am (Updated December 19, 2022 at 9:46 am)

Bermuda lacks clear medical waste disposal policy

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