The Palmetto Health Richland has been fined $28,000 by DHEC for mishandling hazardous materials.
Among the violations were that hospital staff failed to keep containers holding hazardous waste closed during storage; failed to mark containers of hazardous waste; failed to maintain aisle space to allow the unobstructed movement of personnel and emergency equipment; and failed to properly keep manifests of the materials.
DHEC ordered the hospital to rectify the situations, keep proper records and institute a training program in addition to the fine.
A spokeswoman for the hospital said that the violation arose when the waste disposal company that handled the medical waste at Palmetto Health Baptist and Palmetto Health Richland went out of business and was purchased by a competitor.
The new company mislabeled and handled nonhazardous medical waste as though it were hazardous, spokeswoman Tammie Epps said, resulting in a fine because of the greater amount of waste that was erroneously processed as hazardous.
“With this change in disposal companies also came labeling and handling process changes, which resulted in nonhazardous waste being labeled and handled as hazardous waste,” she said in an e-mail. “The two hospitals have long been classified as low producers of hazardous medical waste. This labeling and handling error resulted in a significant increase in the amount of waste being processed as if it were hazardous, when it was not.”
In turn, she said, the increase caused the hospitals to be reclassified as greater producers of hazardous waste, and required Palmetto Health “to meet different regulations and reporting requirements that we unknowingly didn’t meet, resulting in the fine.”
Palmetto Health has since hired a new company to handle waste, Epps said.
“No hazardous medical waste was placed in the environment as a result of this processing error,” she said.