Kaiser Permanente’s Medical Waste Scandal: The True Cost of Healthcare Profits

Kaiser Permanente, the healthcare giant, has agreed to a $49-million-dollar settlement as a result of its unlawful disposal of hazardous materials, improper management of other medical waste, and mishandling of protected patient data. Investigators found items such as blood and body parts in trash bins destined to go to local landfills. They also found over 10,000 paper records containing the private health information of over 7,700 patients. Aerosols, sanitizers, batteries, syringes, medical tubing containing body fluids, and more were additionally uncovered in Kaiser’s unsecured dumpsters.

“The illegal disposal of hazardous and medical waste puts the environment, workers, and the public at risk. It also violates numerous federal and state laws,” said Attorney General Bonta, who was involved in the investigation.

Kaiser is California’s largest healthcare provider, with more than 700 facilities treating nearly nine million patients in the state. There is no excuse for a company this large, who has the responsibility of taking care of this many patients, to not properly dispose of its waste. However, when you’re an operation that make billions in profits every year (over $3.2 billion in just the first half of this year), it leaves you to wonder if fines such as this one are just a so-called “cost of doing business.” Will Kaiser ever change?

As long as profit continues to drive the decision making of healthcare and other companies, our health, safety, and privacy will never be a priority. But still, shame on you, Kaiser!