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Hospital explains clogs in sewers
Mary Washington officials believe that the waste from the hospital that's clogging the city sewer system came from its clinical sinks.

 It appears some hospital workers are flushing wrong items down these sinks.
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Date published: 8/13/2011

BY JIM HALL

Mary Washington Hospital officials believe that the waste that has been clogging the city sewer system gets there when employees dump it down the hospital's clinical sinks or "hoppers."

Hospital officials said they've tried to stop the dumping by posting notices above the sinks and by reminding employees about the proper disposal of the material.

The clinical sinks are wall-mounted, 2 feet by 2 feet, with deep basins, large drains, spigots and spray arms.

"It's literally a large, freestanding commode that's used by the clinicians," said Allen Bryan, administrative director for facilities development and construction.

The sinks are standard equipment in hospitals. Mary Washington has 62 of them, found on patient floors and in the intensive-care units.

Staff members use the sinks after caring for incontinent patients.

"You have soiled patients who are unconscious and have to be tended to, or they could be conscious and not able to take good care of themselves," Bryan said.

Staff members use bed pads, adult diapers, wipes, gloves and disposable wash cloths in caring for these patients. Afterward they carry the material to one of the sinks, often in a utility closet.

Employees are taught to separate the human waste from the other material, to flush the waste in the sinks and toss the paper and gloves into special bins.

Apparently some employees are not doing that. Instead, they're flushing everything down the sinks. From there, it ends up in the city sewer system.

City Manager Beverly Cameron recently complained to hospital officials that the material has been clogging a pumping station just off the hospital campus in an adjoining office park.

The hospital this month reimbursed the city $6,781, the amount the city spent to clean the pumps after they became clogged.

City workers used hooks to retrieve some of the material and traced it to the hospital.

In a July 15 letter to the hospital, Cameron described the offending material as gauze bandages, latex gloves, tape, medical waste bags, trash bags, towels and syringes.

Hospital officials yesterday disputed that its syringes are being flushed into the city sewer system.

Bryan said that city workers spotted what were believed to be syringes in the pump pool, but never retrieved them and never linked them to the hospital.


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