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Residents court risks as hospital burns medical waste in open pit

By Mercy Kahenda | Published Sat, March 3rd 2018 at 11:40, Updated March 3rd 2018 at 11:46 GMT +3
Smoke from burning medical waste in a pit at Molo sub county hospital in Nakuru County poses health risk to families [Harun Wathari, Standard]

Choking smoke from burning medical waste at Molo sub county hospital poses health risk to patients in the newly constructed children and female ward.

Waste disposed in the pit includes used cotton wool, syringes, gloves contaminated with blood and drips.

Despite availability of a burning chamber adjacent to the pit, medical waste dots the surface.

“Individuals operating within the hospital and neighbouring community are exposed to health hazards because they inhale the smoke that’s mixed with gases,” an employee at the facility who did not want to be named, told Saturday Standard.

The staffer said waste should be managed from operating areas and placed in different containers. He added that handlers of waste should be trained to prevent infection of medics and patients.

“The waste might have been dropped by handlers while being moved from operating rooms and wards to the pit,” said the employee.

Dropped by handlers

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And locals living near Langalanga hospital complain of respiratory infections which they believe is caused by pollution.

Miriam Wairimu, a vegetable trader, said the smoke emanating from waste burnt at the hospital affects them.

“There are times smoke fills residential areas. No action has been taken by relevant authorities to contain the pollution. Our children are most affected, they cough and develop chest complications,” said the trader.

A report released by a health task force formed by Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui in October, showed that most hospitals in the county lack proper medical waste disposal system. The task force chaired by Prof James Tuitoek found that various facilities have poor quality burning chambers which churn out partially burnt medical waste that is later buried in shallow pits.

Among facilities found to have poor disposal mechanisms is Molo Sub-County hospital where the grounds of the new Medical Training College are strewn with medical waste excavated as the foundation was being dug, reads a section of the report.

Further, the report noted that expiry dates between 1992 to 2005 were seen and captured on partially burnt vials at the sub county hospital.

The report noted that there are two functional incinerators in the county - Langalanga health centre and the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital.

Langalanga has an incinerator with a small capacity which lacks fuel.

“Some hospitals store their waste in boxes as they wait for transportation to incinerators at Level Five hospital and Langalanga, a risky move because contamination can easily occur,” said the report.

The report recommended investment in a cost effective medical disposal system like incinerators in strategic locations and acquisition of appropriate vehicles to transport medical waste. The taskforce further said department of public waste should manage solid waste disposal and not the department of environment.

In 2016, six private hospitals in the county were put in a spot over illegal disposal of hazardous medical waste.

The institutions were accused of disposing the waste at Gioto dumpsite in Nakuru town.

Public health officer Samuel King’ori said hospitals used to dump the waste at the site in the wee hours of the night.

Meanwhile, Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital in Nakuru acquired a Sh90 million equipment to ensure proper medical waste disposal.

The shredder-and-microwave will shred the waste into small pieces and then burn it. Mr King’ori said the machine was acquired through collaboration between the county and national government in a bid to comply with standard operating procedures set by WHO to combat hazards of medical waste.

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