Disposing of medical waste in a safe and environmentally responsible manner is something that affects every single person around the globe. What happens in one community can spread to another, and anything released into the atmosphere has no boundaries.
The by-products of medical waste are considered to be potentially harmful to humans and thus require special treatment and disposal. Medical waste has always been a major source of concern because of its potential to spread disease and also pollute the soil, surface, and water with pathogens, toxins and heavy metals.
Diseases that are mostly associated with poor healthcare waste management systems include hepatitis, tuberculosis, intestinal parasites, skin disorders, and other infections. In addition, there is also a potential risk of HIV transmission due to misuse of sharp objects used in healthcare services.
With an estimated 70,000 health facilities in Africa, and with the composition of waste considered hazardous being about 25%, it’s imperative that proper methods of medical waste disposal are developed by African countries in order to reduce the adverse effects posed to the people, and the environment.
Once upon a time, incinerating medical waste was considered a best practice. It makes sense because the potential dangers are simply burned away. But today, we now know that the burning of medical waste materials releases dangerous toxins into the air, which is shared globally.
Standards for Medical Waste Management
In 2014, The World Health Organization (WHO) released ten standards for medical waste management.
Outlined below, these standards have been met with a measure of success with about 20 African countries making efforts to conform their practices:
Waste segregation into at least two categories
Appropriate use of color codes and symbols
Daily waste collection from service areas
Dedicated vehicles for on-site transport
Secured temporary storage area
Stored waste should be treated no later than on the second day
Off-site transport in enclosed backloading vehicles
Treatment option including a thermal option
Final disposal at a sterile, dedicated landfill
Periodic quality training of healthcare workforce
UNDP Intervention Program
However, this success being recorded is still not enough to solve the problem of healthcare waste management disposal in Africa. This is why the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has embarked on an intervention program with African healthcare centers.
This program is being implemented in Ghana in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, WHO, and NGO Health Care without Harm.
Three hospitals in Ghana have already benefited from this program so far, and there are two more hospitals who’ve already accepted waste management systems and received equipment that includes personal protective tools as well as waste bins.
About 400 thermometers, which are free of mercury, as well as sphygmomanometers (the tool used to measure blood pressure), were also given to these hospitals in an effort to eliminate the use of mercury instruments in the health sector. The program has also trained personnel from the beneficiary hospitals on the methods of operating and maintaining the various equipment.
The Aim Of The Intervention Program
This program is a five-year project (2016-2020) and is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The UNDP aims to eradicate healthcare waste disposal problems by supporting healthcare establishments with waste management technologies that do not involve incineration, as well as provide them with other equipment needed to help reduce the release of toxic substances to the environment.
It also aims to introduce the best environmental practices and available technologies in four Sub-Saharan countries: Ghana, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Zambia.
In short, the main goal of the medical waste disposal intervention is to help African countries to comply with the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. This means using tools that are mercury-free and disposing of their medical waste without the incineration method.
The support provided to these hospitals is expected to directly support at least 1.77 million people living in the immediate area and will have positive trickle-down effects on the entire globe. It is hoped that by the year 2020, the level of sophistication of medical waste disposal techniques will have increased and that the level of environmental contamination due to this waste will have been drastically reduced.
Learn more about OSHA Compliance, Medical Waste Management and Services and more, by getting in touch with Enviromerica today. We can ensure that you receive the best advice for optimizing your healthcare practice.