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Infectious Waste Sent to Landfill

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A random inspection by state officials in August found that three Albuquerque hospitals had improperly sent infectious waste to a landfill, a state Environment Department official said Tuesday.

Inspectors found infectious waste from the University of New Mexico Hospital, Presbyterian Hospital and the Heart Hospital of New Mexico at Lovelace Medical Center in trucks transported to Albuquerque’s Cerro Colorado landfill, said Jim Winchester, a spokesman for the state Environment Department.

The agency defines infectious waste as biological material and medical waste that may contain blood or other fluids that can spread infectious disease. Infectious waste must be sterilized or incinerated at special facilities.

Spokespersons for the three hospitals said Thursday that they provide employee training, random inspections and other measures intended to prevent the mishandling of medical waste.

Johnny Peña , superintendant of the city’s landfill, said infectious waste typically is incinerated at Stericycle Inc., a firm that specializes in medical waste disposal.

Peña said he observed gauze, latex gloves and medical tubing among the waste transported from the hospitals the day of the state inspection.

Two Albuquerque hospitals paid fines this year for previous violations involving disposal of infectious waste.

Presbyterian Hospital paid a $20,000 fine in July and UNMH paid $17,000 in August, Environment Department records show.

Billy Sparks , a UNMH spokesman, said the fine resulted from a state inspection performed in August 2011. In the inspection last month, inspectors found nine bags of infectious waste at the city landfill, he said.

UNMH provides individual training for employees and daily inspections intended to prevent mishandling infectious waste, Sparks said.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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