By WILSON KUTAMBA
As new cities take shape, authorities in Masaka have ordered proprietors of private health facilities to acquire their own incinerators for proper management of medical waste in the area.
Currently, Masaka City authorities say most private health facilities simply dump medical waste at garbage dumping skips around the city which exposes garbage collectors to injuries and contracting diseases.
A total of about six private health facilities are operating in the city .But according to Dr Patrick Kasendwa , the Masaka City health officer, none of the six health facilities has an incinerator. An incinerator is an apparatus used for burning waste material, especially industrial waste, at high temperatures until it is reduced to ash.
“So , they[private health facilities dump all their medical waste in the open, which is against guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health on how health facilities should manage medical waste,” he said during an interview on Tuesday
The most recklessly disposed of medical waste, according to Dr Kasendwa includes ; cotton wool, gloves, syringes and needles, gauze pads, razor blades, human tissues among others
“We expect the proprietors of private health facilities to first come up with a medical waste management plan and share it with authorities.” He added
A nurse at one of the prominent private health hospitals in Masaka City , who preferred anonymity to speak freely about the matter, said they usually bury some medical waste although sometimes they are forced to dump some (non-hazardous) at garbage skips in the area.
Masaka outgoing City Clerk, John Behangane said they have registered numerous complaints from service providers who collect garbage that some of the waste in the city contains medical waste.
“For any hospital to operate it must have an incinerator, but this is not the case here as many hospitals and clinics operate in defiance of the above requirement,” He said
Christopher Lubwama , one of the casual workers in Masaka City said some times , they uncover foetus, placenta and human body tissue in the garbage
“This is a challenging work we do .Sometimes we get pricked by syringes or safety pins dumped in the garbage skips ,” he said
Musa Maberi, the Masaka City health inspector ,said they will work closely with police to shut down all private health facilities that lack incinerators.
“We are tired of begging owners of private hospitals and clinics to set up incinerators, we are going to crackdown on them and they will reopen after fulfilling the above requirement,” Maberi said
Going forward , Dr Maberi said while issuing licences, city authorities will ensure that health facilities have proper mechanisms of disposing of waste or require them to have private waste collectors then they supervise their operations.
Although some private facilities in Masaka claim they dispose of their waste at Masaka Regional Referral Hospital , Dr Nathan Onyachi , the hospital director, denied any arrangement with them. “Ideally ,all private hospitals and big clinics are supposed to have where to burn their wastes or incinerator or else have a Memorandum of Understanding with Masaka Regional referral hospital and meet some few costs to maintain the incinerator,” he said adding
“Currently, it is only government health centres that work with us to manage their medical wastes ,others simply bring the waste at night and dump it near our incinerator .”
Dr Onyachi said using an incinerator is one of the safer ways of disposing off medical waste because it helps burn it at a temperature of 9000 degrees centigrade.
“The incinerator helps to make the infectious medical waste harmless and it also reduces the waste mass and volume by more than 90 percent .
Dr Bulasio Kabugo, the director of Bulamu Hospital in Masaka City said it’s true many private health facilities don’t have proper mechanisms of disposing off medical waste , but blames it on authorities who are reluctant to enforce the standards.
“At Bulamu ,we have two mechanisms[of disposing of medical waste]- one we use an incinerator at our wing B in Soweto ,Masaka City and another one is a 50 –feet pit at Kigo Village ,Kalungu District where less toxic medical wastes are burnt from,” He said
In Uganda, infectious and non-infectious waste generated in hospitals averages 92kg and 42kg at Health Centre IVs level daily. Health Centre IIs and IIIs generate about 20kg to 25kg of waste.
According to the World Health Organisation , 15 percent of medical waste is harmful material and infectious. Such waste requires safe disposal to prevent health care workers, waste handlers, patients and communities in the vicinity of the respective health facilities from risks of nosocomial infections and other hazards.