Body fluids leak from waste bags

By Martin Johnston

Auckland study finds flaws in packaging of human tissue bound for crematorium.

Auckland City Hospital. Photo / Natalie Slade
Auckland City Hospital. Photo / Natalie Slade

Nearly one in three bags containing human body parts taken during healthcare procedures have leaked on their way to disposal, a study at the Auckland City Hospital suggests.

Auckland District Health Board disposed of more than 7600 items of body tissue last year, such as tonsils, breast tissue, placentas and appendixes.

Tissue is returned to the patient if they ask for it; otherwise it is placed in a dedicated freezer at the health board's LabPLUS laboratory at the hospital. A funeral director takes it to the Mangere Lawn Cemetery and Crematorium where, after cremation, the ashes are scattered in the grounds of the crematorium.

"This process was endorsed by the ADHB Maori health team," the board's chief executive, Ailsa Claire, told the Herald.

Meeting minutes from the board's Body Parts and Tissue Management Governance Group, obtained under the Official Information Act, reveal the problem of the leaking of bags containing tissue destined for cremation.

The 2012 "body parts audit report" found that "68.83 per cent were packaged correctly. However, there remained issues with the integrity of the packaging."

The group recommended in May that efforts continue "to source appropriate packaging".

Ms Claire said the audit checked 50 placentas sent from a hospital ward via LabPLUS for cremation.

"The placentas are double-bagged and knotted in the ward and placed in a plastic-lined and lidded container and transported to LabPLUS."

Just over 30 per cent of the bagged placentas were found to have leaked blood or amniotic fluid to a degree into the plastic-lined container when they were removed by lab staff for double-checking.

"All leakages were contained within the transporting container during transport from the ward to the lab and no members of the public were exposed."

The packaging was rectified by glove-wearing lab staff before the items left the laboratory.

"As with any other specimen received in the laboratory or for the team attending the birth, there is a small risk of exposure to potential infection for staff if cuts are present or splashes occur," Ms Claire said.

"Targeted education for ward staff on how to securely tighten the placenta bags has been held. Packaging at other DHBs is being investigated."

Springing a leak

1 in three bags containing human body parts have leaked on their way to disposal
7600 items of body tissue disposed of last year
50 placentas were sent from a hospital ward for cremation
30 per cent of the bagged placentas were found to have leaked blood or amniotic fluid.

- NZ Herald

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