PORTERS at Raigmore Hospital are being advised not to handle clinical waste after three were stabbed by used needles and one slipped and fell on body fluids which spilled from a container.
The GMB union has issued the advice to its members at the same time as lodging a collective grievance against NHS Highland on their behalf.
It was revealed last month how porters at the city hospital were being required to deal with clinical waste after specialist national contractor Healthcare Environment Services went bust.
Liz Gordon, GMB regional officer, has submitted the collective grievance on behalf of 14 porters at Raigmore.
Detailing the injuries suffered by staff in the last few weeks, she said: “The porter with the twisted knee remains off work with a nasty injury while three others received puncture injuries, having been stabbed by needles sticking out of bags.
“Highland Council refuse collectors get issued with stab-proof trousers, while all the porters at Raigmore get are gardening gloves and a plastic apron.
“Raigmore will have to make alternative arrangements or put other arrangements in place to ensure the safety of my members.
“We simply cannot have any more injuries from sharps and falls.
“They have been handling waste from theatre, maternity and general wards, you name it. It includes swabs, body fluids and body parts, I would assume.”
She also spoke of fears about cross-contamination as porters who have been handling waste then return to normal duties, including moving patients between wards and clinics.
The grievance details fears over the risk to the health, safety and welfare of porters and other hospital users as well as a lack of consultation on the changes to porters’ job descriptions.
NHS Highland was contacted but failed to provide a response to the grievance issue prior to the Courier going to press.
When it was announced last month that porters would take on clinical waste duties, they said that steps were being taken to minimise any risks, including providing staff with masks and personal protective equipment, “significantly reducing the risk of cross-contamination.”
A spokesman for NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) also insisted at the time: “All contingency measures are in line with regulatory standards and requirements enforced by Scottish Environment Protection Agency.”