NA hospital flayed on waste disposal By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
April 25, 2002

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A technical team from the city of Huntsville, Texas, USA has described as "unacceptable" the solid waste handling at the New Amsterdam Hospital and has recommended immediate corrective action.

"A health facility should be aware of the health hazards it is creating in the community and therefore this blatant act should not be tolerated by the citizens of New Amsterdam," the three-member team submitted in their first report for the resource cities partnership between Huntsville and the New Amsterdam Town Council.

In a highly critical assessment of the institution's waste disposal system, the team said "the Regional Hospital hauls its medical waste across the road and burns it there due to the fact that the door of the furnace is broken and they don't want to pay the Town Council collection and disposal costs. This is unacceptable. If the regional governing body and the medical professionals who know the health risks involved are setting this type of example, then the local town government will fail in any education attempts it tries."

Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Dr. John Austin acknowledged that medical waste was being burnt at an empty lot opposite the institution along the Strand. One senior official had earlier told this newspaper that only kitchen waste and paper were being burnt at the site after residents in the area had complained about the offensive odour emitting from incineration at the dumpsite.

Dr. Austin told this newspaper that the Town Council was not collecting non-toxic garbage as requested by the institution and described as "inaccurate" the statement in the report that the hospital was not paying the council to collect and dispose of its waste.

However, a source at the Town Council told Stabroek News that the council had written the Regional Executive Officer who is the Accounting Officer some two years ago requesting payment for the collection and disposal of surgical waste but had not received a response. Hospital Administrator, Audrey Field recently told this newspaper that the disposal of surgical waste, including limbs, had been contracted to a local funeral parlour.

Dr. Austin also acknowledged that the hospital's incinerator was not functioning but noted that the Regional Administration had been notified of the problem more than four years ago and had been promising since then to construct a new one.

Regional Vice-Chairman, Kadim Bacchus told Stabroek News yesterday that $1 million had been allocated in this year's regional budget to execute rehabilitation works on the hospital's incinerator. Asked why nothing was done before to address the problem, Bacchus admitted that no attention was paid to maintenance of the facility over recent years. According to the vice-chairman, budgetary constraints have affected and continue to affect the administration's attempts to address the numerous problems confronting the region. A team of Japanese experts, Bacchus disclosed, recently suggested that a modern incinerator was needed at the hospital since the existing facility could not handle the institution's medical waste.

The team recommended that the council should write the Regional Democratic Council and Central Government requesting a meeting to discuss the deplorable state of affairs and example set by a government-owned and operated facility.

"The letter," the report suggested, "should list specific corrective actions that are expected and a time frame which stresses the urgency of the health hazard placed on the community. It is imperative if success is to be achieved that this is not a 'political football'. The citizens are the owners in the governance policy and the Town Council must represent the owners' best interest and not the stakeholders in this situation. This must be a united community front in order to achieve the desired results."

The US technical team included City Manager, Bob Hari, Director of Planning and Development Glennn Isbell and Director of Human Resources, Danna Welter. The report was compiled during their visit to the town between April 2 and 10. The partnership between Huntsville and New Amsterdam was made possible through the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

The partnership is expected to see significant improvements in the town in the area of solid waste management and drainage. The team had also said that the council was "broke" and called for it to put its financial house in order.