Written Answers. - Clinical Waste Disposal.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Ceist:

240 Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Health the locations outside Ireland where the clinical waste disposal system being operated by the Southern Health Board is used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16800/96]

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Ceist:

241 Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Health when the Southern Health Board changed its technology for disposing of clinical waste; the reason it changed the technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16801/96]

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Ceist:

242 Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Health if the Southern Health Board has been using a system to dispose of clinical waste which has been approved elsewhere; and, if so, where it has been approved for use. [16802/96]

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Ceist:

243 Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Health if there have been ongoing problems within the Southern Health Board with the disposal of clinical waste; the reason for these difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16803/96]

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Ceist:

244 Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Health the system which is being used to dispose of clinical waste in each of the health boards throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16804/96]

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Ceist:

246 Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn asked the Minister for Health whether all the health boards throughout the country have permits under the waste disposal legislation to store clinical waste; the quantity of clinical waste being stored in each of the health boards throughout the country; the contingency plans, if any, there are in each of the health boards to deal with an emergency which could arise due to storage of infectious clinical waste over a long period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16806/96]

Noel Dempsey

Ceist:

278 Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for Health the current status of the tender for new technology for the disposal of medical waste; the number of applications made; the number of applications accepted; the timetable for completion of this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16966/96]

Noel Dempsey

Ceist:

279 Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for Health whether he has excluded from consideration under the terms of the tender for medical waste disposal, consideration of technologies which would involve on-site treatment as distinct from a limited number of centralised plants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16968/96]

Noel Dempsey

Ceist:

280 Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for Health the representations, if any, he has made to the United Kingdom authorities to seek a derogation above the limited one available under existing EU regulations in respect of medical waste requiring incineration above 1200 degrees; the dates and venues of all meetings; the grades of personnel of those involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16981/96]

Noel Dempsey

Ceist:

281 Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for Health the basis and source for all figures given by his Department for quantities of medical waste in the waste disposal tender; if he was given an audit for quantities of medical waste by the Eastern Health Board; the reason for the significant differences between the figures in the tender and the Eastern Health Board audit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16983/96]

Noel Dempsey

Ceist:

282 Mr. Dempsey asked the Minister for Health if he has satisfied himself that all health boards have adequate provision for the disposal of medical waste; if he will allay reported concerns regarding the stockpiling of medical waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16984/96]

Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 to 244, inclusive, 246 and 278 to 282, inclusive, together

The clinical waste disposal system which is currently being operated by the waste management contractor to the Southern Health Board is being used at various locations outside Ireland, including sites in Scotland, England and the United States. This contractor was employed following public tendering procedures, and the contract was awarded in May 1996. The contractor uses somewhat different technology from that previously used. There were teething problems with the commissioning of the new equipment and as a result there was a backlog of waste requiring treatment. This backlog has now been substantially cleared. I understand that the technology has been subjected to rigorous approval procedures.

The Southern Health Board and the Eastern Health Board are employing contractors who use a shredding and decontamination method of treatment of clinical waste. The other health boards are using contractors who export the waste for treatment in the United Kingdom.

The detailed information sought in relation to permits, quantities of waste being stored by health boards, contingency plans, etc., is not available in my Department.

The tendering process for the transportation, treatment and disposal of clinical waste involves a joint approach to the market with the Northern Ireland Department of Health. It is based on the assumption of centralised treatment in order to maximise quality and minimise cost. A short list of tenderers is at present being prepared. A total of 41 requests for tender application forms were received; 23 completed forms were returned and the number selected to tender will be between five and eight, as stated in the advertisement in the Official Journal of the European Communities. Tenders are due in by mid-November and it is expected that a contractor will be selected by the end of the year.

I raised the matter of the continued export to the United Kingdom, on a temporary basis, of healthcare risk waste arising in Ireland, with the Secretary of State for Health in the United Kingdom, when I met with him last June in the context of the EU Presidency. I understand my colleague the Minister for the Environment, in reply to a similar question today, will also be adverting to representations made by his Department to the United Kingdom Department of the Environment in the matter.
The estimates of quantities of waste which were included in the waste disposal tender documents are based on waste disposal records and on surveys carried out in a number of hospitals. My Department has not received an audit for quantities of medical waste from the Eastern Health Board, and the quantities specified in the tender documents are considered a reasonable basis on which to plan.
The arrangements currently in place for the disposal of clinical waste are not ideal in all cases, and I am satisfied that the new arrangements due to come into force in 1997 will represent a big improvement.