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Great Lakes Article:

Clement slams hospital for flushing drugs
Minister dumps on hospital
Louie Rosella
The Mississauga News
11/24/2002

The Trillium Health Centre (THC) has come under fire from Ontario Health and Long Term Care Minister Tony Clement for its standard practice of dumping expired drugs into our water system.

Clement denounced the routine following a press conference Friday where he helped launch a Shoppers Drug Mart initiative to keep household drugs out of the water supply.

The dumping issue at THC surfaced last week after complaints were made about the hospital.

But David Allen, a THC vice president, downplayed the danger of the practice, saying it was the way most Canadian hospitals get rid of expired drugs or damaged narcotics.

He went further to admit medications such as Demerol, Codeine and Morphine are disposed of regularly at THC by dumping them down the drain or flushing them down the toilet, namely in the nursing unit.

But when The News questioned Clement about the practice Friday, he was quick to condemn it.

"Certainly there will be some redress. My Ministry will be working with the management and staff at Trillium to correct this course of conduct because that's just not acceptable," Clement told The News. "When you're talking about hospitals, there are standards in place with the disposal of medical waste and other medications. We want a safe environment. We want hospitals to be safe, but they have to operate in an environmentally-safe and conscious manner as well."

Under provincial law, however, the practice is perfectly legal even though trace amounts of the narcotics still wind up in Lake Ontario.

Although Allen said Friday THC would be happy to work with the province to alleviate this process, he still maintained there is no need for concern.

"We have not considered it to be a health hazard because the moment these drugs get put into the sink, they're automatically diluted." said Allen. "But in a society that values the importance of a clean environment, this is an area we can improve in."

Clement, also MPP for Brampton West-Mississauga, warned when these type of drugs are disposed like this, it could have an environmental impact.

With pain killers and narcotics, the amount the patient requires is often less than what is in the bottle.

"The remainder of what is in that bottle has to be wasted because it's been opened for a patient," Allen said last week. "You can't go back and refill the bottle."

At least two other hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area also use this disposal method.

Staff at both THC and Credit Valley Hospital (CVH) place pharmaceuticals in a specially-labelled bio-hazard container to be incinerated.

For the most part, CVH also disposes narcotics in this manner.

But CVH spokesperson Wendy Johnson also admitted Friday "minuscule amounts" of narcotics are dumped down the drain or flushed down the toilet.

"It is dumped in such small quantities, little droplets even," she said. "There shouldn't be any worries from our end about it showing up in the water system."

When hospitals begin collecting these drugs for incineration, it becomes a lengthy and costly process, Allen added.

Health Canada is reviewing this disposal process and its implications.

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