Schneider falls behind on waste removal during holidays


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ST. THOMAS - Two weeks of holidays and the recent long weekend had left a backlog of four trailers full of medical waste sitting behind Schneider Hospital, but as of Wednesday, everything had been removed from the property.

"There were four trailers there Monday, three went out yesterday and one left today," Schneider Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Bernard Wheatley said Wednesday. "With the holiday weekend, and two weeks of holidays, things don't move as readily from a logistical standpoint."

He dismissed rumors that waste was left there because of problems paying the vendor, Virgin Islands Regulated Waste Management Inc.

Wheatley said he spoke with the vendor and was assured that nothing is standing in the way of removing the waste from the property.

At a September board meeting, Vice President of Facilities Management Karen Hodge mentioned that the hospital's medical waste had backed up and was becoming a problem.

Subsequent investigations by The Daily News revealed the scope of the problem - 150 boxes of medical waste sitting in the hot sun on the loading dock.

V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources officials conducted an inspection and found a number of violations regarding the storage of red bag medical waste, prompting the agency to issue a notice of non-compliance. The waste was overflowing the freezer and was sitting out in cardboard boxes on the hospital's loading dock.

Red bag waste and sharps are two forms of medical waste that contain contaminated feces, urine, blood and bodily tissues discarded during medical procedures, as well as used needles, gauze, and tubing. The hospital also tracks and collects waste from private doctors offices and clinics on St. Thomas.

The hospital invested more than $100,000 to bring the institution into compliance. Four new trailers were purchased, a new condenser for the freezer was installed and a refrigerated container for overflow from the freezer has been purchased.

Wheatley said he is in the process of obtaining a permit to build a $70,000 concrete slab for the container as well as to enclose the loading dock area.

In December, the hospital received an amended notice of compliance status from the DPNR, stating that the hospital has taken the necessary corrective actions and is now in compliance with their permit to dispose of medical waste.

Hodge has since been demoted to director of Facilities Management and the hospital is searching for a new vice president of the division.

"We are doing our best to maintain compliance with DPNR because we don't want to repeat this situation," Wheatley said. "It's not good for the institution and it's certainly not good for the community."

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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