MEMPHIS, March 25, 2016 – Human tissue appears to have been disposed of improperly in a sink and filtered into the pipes of the Memphis VA Medical Center.
Human tissue is a bio-hazardous material and requires proper protocol for cleaning; however, based on photos provided exclusively to CDN, that doesn’t appear to have happened at the Memphis VA.
Sean Higgins, a Memphis VA employee and whistleblower who provided the photos to CDN, said that human tissue is taken from the operating room and into a housekeeping closet with a sink and a floor drain and dumped into the drain.
The drain was clogged during the previous week, and staff discovered pieces of human tissue when the drain was being fixed.
Human tissue is a bio-hazardous material with a special protocol for disposal, which is supposed to happen off site.
Higgins told CDN that a contractor is paid to take the bio-hazardous material and dispose it off site.
“That obviously wasn’t happening,” Higgins said.
Improperly disposing of bio-hazardous material in the drain can lead to the spread of germs and bacteria in the water system and the spread of diseases like legionella.
In September 2015, the Fox affiliate in Memphis broke the story that higher than acceptable levels of bacteria responsible for legionella were found in the hospital, according to a memo the station acquired.
Willie Logan said this to CDN in an email: “That’s not my area but I’ve asked others to look into it.”
But Logan declined further comment.
This latest news comes as the Memphis VA continues to reel from a string of scandals and embarrassing incidents.
In February, the hospital changed its director, from Dr. C. Diane Knight to James Mills citing “underperformance.”
The hospital has been mired in scandal. In 2014, a VA Office of Inspector General report found the hospital had some of the worst wait times in the country.
In August 2015, CDN broke news that the ward where paraplegics were housed was being left unattended for about an hour per day for an all staff meeting; that story was eventually picked up nationally.
Higgins, who recently got his job back after a federal judge ruled he had been terminated improperly, said that for nearly two years every single month media has broken a scandal about the hospital.