‘No regulations for storing and handling medical waste’
Medical waste trucked to the airport dump for storage is permitted to stay until the end of March – or further talks must be held with authorities about its fate.
Shipping containers previously held at Southside got relocated after St David’s residents, who oppose the approval of a privately run medical waste incinerator for the area, objected to their storage.
The group Concerned Citizens of St David’s has appealed directly to David Burt to intervene after news of a MediWaste facility getting the green light for industrially zoned land at Southside outraged residents.
After complaints surfaced from a would-be contender for disposing of the waste, The Royal Gazette looked into the regulations governing how Bermuda deals with its medical waste.
According to the Ministry of Health, there are “no regulations for storing and handling medical waste in Bermuda”.
Instead there were guidelines set by the Department of Health, in place prior to February this year, when the department provided a “free collection and transportation service for those generating medical waste”.
Those guidelines, covering the “correct segregation and packaging” of the waste, were not embodied in regulations.
The guidelines echoed internal protocols developed by Bermuda Hospitals Board, which was saddled with the responsibility for destroying all of the island’s biologically hazardous waste until it agreed a ten-year contract with MediWaste.
The job was never an appropriate task for the hospital to manage, according to BHB, which stated: “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.”
According to the ministry, with the handover of responsibility to MediWaste, health officials “researched the UK timelines for storage, requirements for refrigeration, storage within a building, etc” and provided the details to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The ministry said that general oversight of MediWaste was handled by DENR rather than the health department.
DENR, in turn, has “provided MediWaste with the conditions it must meet regarding the storage of medical waste”.
“This is part of the permitting process for MediWaste’s operations and is pursuant to the Clean Air Act.”
No date has been given for when MediWaste expects to have its incinerator up and running and attempts to get comment from the company have not been returned.
But when the company went public about its plans in March this year, MediWaste’s chief executive, Donte Hunt, said the company had a storage facility for the waste.
Mr Hunt added: “We will be collecting and storing it until we can start burning, which is exactly what the BHB is doing right now.”
After an outcry by St David’s residents over the unsecured roadside placement of medical waste containers at Southside, the Bermuda Land Development Corporation, which owns the property, was questioned on the matter.
Andrew Dias, president of the BLDC, called it “a problem” and told the public the containers would be relocated by the end of November.
Mr Dias told a public meeting: “The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is the keeper of the gate from beginning to end.”
DENR said that the clinical waste would be kept at the Airport Waste Management Facility until they were “required to be transported to the MediWaste facility for the start of the commissioning of the clinical waste incinerators”.
“MediWaste can best advise when their facility will be ready to receive clinical waste,” a department spokesman said.
“However, should medical waste storage at the AWMF be expected to go beyond the end of March 2023, it is incumbent on MediWaste to hold further discussions with the Waste Management Section and DENR.”
He confirmed that MediWaste’s operating licence conditions were statutory under the Clean Air Act 1991.
The Act covers air admissions – with the seven-member Environmental Authority tasked with setting conditions for controlled plants such as medical waste incinerators.
The DENR provided the conditions given for the intermediate storage of medical waste, known as red-bag waste.
The conditions state that the storage should be “for as short a period of time as is practicable using appropriate refrigerated facilities and with trained personnel using appropriate PPE and good housekeeping as recommended by best practices in other developed jurisdictions”.
“These procedures shall be in line with best practices provided by the Department of Health and shall be documented in Standard Operating Procedures with sign-off by all operators and shall be ready to be made available during inspections.”
• To review draft guidelines issued in 2015 for Bermuda’s medical waste, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.