What we examined

In 2012 we audited Alberta Health Services’ systems to manage the handling and disposal of healthcare waste materials. For purposes of this report, the term “healthcare waste” includes biomedical and chemical waste as defined by AHS.

We made four recommendations in our July 2012 report. In 2015 we conducted follow-up work to assess whether these recommendations have been implemented.

Overall Conclusion

Alberta Health Services has implemented all four recommendations.

What we found

AHS has:

  • assigned the responsibility for oversight of healthcare waste at all AHS sites to its Linen and Environmental Services (LES) branch/function
  • developed standardized waste management policies and procedures, and implemented monitoring and analysis of its compliance at AHS sites that produce large volume of healthcare waste
  • developed an invoice verification process and started to implement it across large volume producing sites
  • developed a process to assess the risk associated with the management of healthcare waste at contracted sites

Why this is important to Albertans

AHS’s direct cost of managing healthcare waste materials is $3 million.3 This expense is not a significant item in AHS’s total annual budget of more than $13.50 billion for 2014–2015. However, there are other significant risk factors:

  • Health risk—infection or injury from direct contact with biomedical waste and other hazardous waste by patients, healthcare workers, hospital visitors, cleaning staff, waste collectors, processors, recyclers and the general public
  • Environmental risk—healthcare waste materials may contain substances that are infectious, toxic, flammable, explosive, corrosive or otherwise harmful to the environment if not disposed of safely
  • Reputational risk—healthcare waste incidents may impact the public’s confidence in AHS
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