Private hospitals warned against poor medical waste management

Masaka City casual workers loading garbage one of the tractors.Some private health facilities in the area have been accused of dumping medical waste at garbage skips

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.

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