Medical waste dumped on the sidewalk of Muller Street Yeoville, opposite a childrens playground. Picture: Mujahid Safodien
Medical waste dumped on the sidewalk of Muller Street Yeoville, opposite a childrens playground. Picture: Mujahid Safodien

Hospitals not disposing waste properly

By Bheki Mbanjwa Time of article published Feb 3, 2012

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Most hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal are not disposing medical waste properly. Nine of the 14 major hospitals are improperly disposing of expired drugs and 12 hospitals have admitted to mixing waste.

This was revealed by the provincial Department of Health in response to parliamentary questions from the DA.

The DA said the department’s failure to put the proper systems in place for effective disposal of the “often highly dangerous” medical waste was shocking.

But in its response the department said it was implementing a number of measures aimed at correcting the situation.

This included the creation of waste management officer posts for each institution and also the development of a medical waste strategy document.

The process of recruiting waste management officers is expected to cost R19 million with human resources at the department said to be in the final stages of advertising the posts.

The department said it would also be establishing district health-care management committees while the transportation of waste from clinics to hospitals had been incorporated into the new waste management services contract to ensure that compliant vehicles are used in transportation of waste.

A tender has also been published and this will revise the health-care risk waste management contract which covers services which are excluded from the current contract.

The tender is estimated at R57 million. “This process is at an advanced stage because the tender process has now closed and the technical committee is expected to sit soon,” head of department Sibongile Zungu said in the response.

Mark Steele of the DA said: “The mad scramble to fix the problems – as seen in the reply – is indicative of an entity that reacts on an ad hoc basis and which has no formal medical waste disposal programme.

“It also raises questions around the training of provincial health workers when it comes to the correct disposal methods of medical waste.”

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