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"Medical Waste Floating In The Basement;" Sandy Shows Medical Waste Disposal Still Overlooked In Crisis Plans

NEW YORK, Nov. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Evacuated New York hospitals are contending with red bag infectious medical waste in their flooded basements. As the NY Post reported on October 30th, "One official NYU there is medical waste floating in the basement." Hurricane Sandy has created a potential public health risk at area hospitals that don't have on-site medical waste treatment equipment. Traffic and low fuel supplies exacerbate the ability for hospitals to truck their medical waste to treatment facilities, which are located hours away from the region.

"While the coalition has been educating people for years about overlooked issues in hospital emergency planning, it is still shocking to hear about infectious medical waste floating in flooded hospital basements," said Darrell Henry, Executive Director of the Health Care Coalition on Emergency Preparedness.

"The ability for our healthcare facilities to maintain operations during times of crisis is a matter of interest to us all," said Henry. "Unfortunately, it is not until natural disasters occur that hospital operational sustainability is put to the test and highlights vulnerabilities in emergency planning."

"The last thing patients and those working in our hospitals should need to worry about right now is untreated medical waste -- much less the public contending with trucks filled with such waste further clogging the regions roads," said Henry.

The current practice of most healthcare facilities is to transport these hazardous materials off-site by non- clinical, commercial truck drivers to a regional facility to be treated and disposed. Over 1,000 hospitals nation-wide are using commercial scale systems to sterilize infectious waste on-site in order to render it safe without risking public exposure to potentially deadly pathogens.

The coalition is going to continue to monitor and evaluate emergency operational sustainability and the handling of infectious medical waste at hospitals in the region.

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