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Medical waste incinerator operations to be curtailed; seven layoffs result

STANFORD -- Operations at Stanford University's medical waste incinerator are to be sharply curtailed, and the reduction in use will result in the layoffs of one supervisor and six other employees, university officials announced Tuesday, April 5.

Larry Gibbs, associate vice president and director of Environmental Health and Safety, which operates the incinerator, said the move was made necessary when management at the Stanford University Hospital and Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford decided to use alternative methods to dispose of their medical waste.

Since medical waste from those two facilities accounts for about 80 percent of the medical waste handled at the incinerator, and since the incinerator is a "cost-recovery" service center facility, Gibbs said, EH&S had to eliminate the seven positions.

The supervisor is an exempt employee. The six others, certified medical waste incinerator operators, are members of the United Stanford Workers union.

They were formally notified of the layoffs at a Tuesday morning meeting, where representatives from personnel services, employee benefits and employee relations were also present to address issues related to the layoffs and to provide information about the university support services available.

Gibbs said all the affected employees had been previously notified that the incinerator operation was likely to be scaled back. The layoffs are effective May 6.

The incinerator will be maintained and operated, but on a "significantly reduced schedule," Gibbs said. Appropriately qualified EH&S employees will run the incinerator system to handle "certain small amounts of waste for which incineration is the most appropriate method of disposal," he said.

The two hospitals will dispose of their waste through an outside contractor using recently developed alternative technologies, as part of their efforts to reduce the overall cost of medical care.

Louis Saksen, associate director for environmental and support services at the Stanford University Hospital, said reviews done over the past several years found that new alternative, commercially available methods were much less costly than sending medical waste to the university-owned and operated incinerator. He also said many of the new disposal methods are more environmentally sound than incineration.



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