21st October 2018
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Health service investigation after bag full of medical waste found in ditch

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NHS Shetland is launching an investigation after a Vidlin resident found a medical waste bag in the ditch near her home last week.

Jane Jacobs was walking her dog when she made the gruesome discovery, which she initially thought was something to do with crofting. Then she noticed it was labelled NHS Grampian and bore a hazard symbol.

She is angry that nearly a week later the bag was still there.

Mrs Jacobs said: “It’s a bag the size of pillowcase, it says ‘path­ology dept.’ and ‘cytology unit’ on it and ‘clinical biochemistry/hae­mo­tology’ and ‘danger of infection’ in big letters.

“I kept going backwards and forwards and saw there was a phone number on it.

“I called NHS Grampian and told them there was a bag in the ditch. They said it wasn’t theirs and put me through to Orkney who put me through to the Gilbert Bain. The receptionist was quite horrifed, she put me through to someone else who said not to touch it, which I had no intention of doing. They said they would send porters to get it.

“For some reason the porters couldn’t get it so the lady at the Gilbert Bain called the [SIC] infrastructure people to come and get it and they said they would collect it with the binmen on Friday.”

But Mrs Jacobs wanted the un­pleasant find removed before then. She said: “I phoned infrastructure and said it’s not good enough, it’s hazardous waste. My neighbour’s son said call Sepa, I called them and they said it wasn’t their remit. I told them I’d phoned The Shetland Times and they [the person I spoke to] said: ‘They won’t collect it’.

“It so happened I was at the dump today [Wednesday] and asked at Gremista, they said they wouldn’t put it in the dump and the binmen wouldn’t be able to pick it up anyway. The dump can’t dispose of it, it’s got a hazardous symbol on it.

“I’m amazed no-one’s taking responsibilty, what’s a bag like that doing in the ditch anyway, nobody seems to be concerned, kids could pick it up.

“What does the Gilbert Bain do with its hazardous waste, it’s got to get rid of it somehow.”

A spokeswoman for SIC envi­ron­mental health said on Wednes­day the bag had not been collected sooner due to staff shortages, but an officer would collect it that night and it would be disposed of “in the correct manner.”

Meanwhile NHS Shetland has pledged to find out how the bag got into the ditch in the first place. Head of estates at NHS Shetland John McBeath was shown a photo of the find, and said that in spite of the warnings on the bag it might not be as dangerous as feared.

Clin­ical waste, he said, would either be in yellow or orange bags and this one appeared to be transparent. Mr McBeath said: “We believe it is a specimen bag of a type which could be posted for testing. They are a low enough hazard to be put in the mail but we don’t know where this has come from, we won’t know till it’s been to the lab here. We will do a full investigation to find out how it landed up in Vidlin.”

He confirm­ed the package was being delivered to the Gilbert Bain Hospital on Wednesday night. 

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About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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