This past June, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection let it be known that violations with medical waste disposal for hospitals will be treated harshly. They fined both the UPMC and the Allegheny Health Network after an investigation found both were illegally disposing of their medical waste.
The investigation began almost 3 years ago when a local waste management company discovered untreated medical waste was mixed in with municipal garbage at a state landfill. Initially, it was believed that all had come from UPMC, but a further probe revealed that 2 hospitals in the Allegheny Health Network were also responsible. Both of the health systems were fined, yet the investigation continued around the state to ensure that no other medical facilities were also guilty of the practice.
Biological waste disposal violations were subsequently found in 12 hospitals operated by UPMC, which was then hit with a $451,000 fine. It was found that they were dumping large quantities of contaminated needles, wound dressings containing blood, and other bodily fluids right at the landfill. Two hospitals in the Allegheny Health Network – West Penn and Forbes – are guilty of similar practices, and were fined a total of $86,900 by the state.
According to a representative from the state’s environmental protection agency, the biggest concern was that none of the waste had been sterilized prior to shipment and dumping. This practice puts the local water supply at risk of contamination as the medical waste begins to break down and decompose on its own. The presence of contaminated needles was also noted, as these are an immediate health risk for any individual who comes into contact with them.
A spokesperson from the Allegheny Health Network admits a breakdown in their normally strict policies of medical waste disposal. Once the breakdown was discovered, they immediately took steps to reeducate staff members involved in the path of medical waste inside of the hospitals. They also opted to begin using a professional medical waste disposal company that could ensure that all medical waste was properly sterilized before it was left at any landfill.
What Led to These Violations
During the inspections following the initial discovery of untreated medical waste in a landfill, investigators found a number of violations inside of area hospitals. Noted was improper labeling, storage, and the handling of untreated medical waste before it even left the facility. This is why it is extremely important to implement a strategy that starts at the very collection of medical waste from where it is being generated.
To avoid this happening to your medical facility, it is imperative that you work with a reliable medical waste management service provider. Not only do we treat medical waste, be assist in educating your employees, providing you with the proper materials for collection, and structuring a plan for its safe removal from your hospital. This is your best defense against having to pay almost half a million dollars in penalties.