Hydroclave - a unit which sterilises medical waste

Johannesburg - Roodepoort residents are up in arms at the prospect of having a hydroclave, a unit which sterilises and dehydrates medical waste, on their doorstep in the Wilgeheuwel Hospital.

The hospital has applied for permission to have the unit installed, but neighbours claim that it poses a health risk as it will be placed close to their windows.

The hospital also intends using the unit to dispose of medical waste from the Flora Clinic.

Residents are concerned about air pollution, leakage, safety and a lack of disaster management plans.

Spokesman for the residents Malcolm Barnfield says they are concerned about the unit and have submitted a petition to the City of Joburg opposing the installation.

He says the unit has been at the Sandton Medi Clinic for years.

“We are told they tried it but decided not to use it because it did not comply with health regulations. The one Wilgeheuwel wants to install is 48m from my bedroom and we don’t want it there. We are horrified at the thought. It will devalue properties in the area and increase traffic. What about the danger of environmental contamination and explosions?” he asked.

Residents have held meetings with the Water and Environmental Affairs Department which has asked residents to produce a full report on their concerns on safety, property values, and pollution including noise, traffic and health.

The Sandton Medi Clinic confirmed the unit is on their premises – and has been for three years.

Liezel Furlong, client services manager, said they had used it for six weeks and then took a “corporate decision” not to continue.

“It was not based on any environmental or financial considerations. We are waiting for Siyandisa Waste Services to come and collect it. We don’t know why it has not been removed,” she said.

The City of Joburg’s petition committee, which accepted the residents’ petition, met with the affected parties. DA councillor Steve Kotze said the residents were angry and frustrated.

“This needs to be investigated. Officials from the Health and Planning departments had their own concerns such as the transport of the waste from Florida Clinic to Wilgeheuwel Hospital,” he said.

However, Roelien du Plessis, who is involved in the environmental impact study, and speaks for the clinic and Siyandisa, dismissed residents’ concerns, saying: “These hydroclaves are used all over the world. The hospital already has three autoclaves which are being used to sterilise theatre instruments and medical waste.

“The hydroclaves are more beneficial in that waste is treated before it leaves the hospital, instead of being stored. The unit leaves only a powder, so there is no back- up of waste, and the little remaining waste is sterilised before it is sent for disposal,” she said.

Du Plessis said the hydroclave would improve efficiencies and operations and that only one truck per week would be used during off-peak hours. “It is a wonderful way to address medical waste. Currently, we remove untreated waste to another facility on a daily basis,” she said.

The application for the licence was going through the lawful channels, she said. - The Star