Improper disposal of medical waste at 37 Military Hospital to be rectified – Minister

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Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang Manu, has hinted of a collaboration between his ministry and that of the Defence Ministry on the best methods to manage waste from the 37 Military Hospital especially the mortuary department.

Highly infectious liquid medical waste from 37 Military Hospital has been flowing freely into Accra’s main gutters, with authorities at the hospital making no attempts to reverse the trend. This was captured in the latest Auditor General’s report.

Standards require proper disposal of medical waste because improper disposal of waste may lead to infectious diseases by infectious agents, and contamination of the environment by venomous and perilous chemicals.

International standards therefore require proper management of medical waste to reduce the environmental and public health risk such wastes pose.

The minister speaking with Rainbow Radio’s Afia Kwarteng said the Military is not managed by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and so his ministry does not have oversight responsibility. However, he has promised to work closely with the Defence Ministry to resolve the challenge.

He assured Ghanaians government will not relevant in its efforts in ensuring proper disposal of medical waste are adhered to. Biomedical waste has a higher risk of injury or infection compared to ordinary waste, therefore, safe and reliable methods for its management are crucial.

Inadequate and inappropriate handling of biomedical waste is likely to have serious public health ramifications through direct contact or indirectly through the environment.

An example of the indirect impact is observed when farmers irrigate their crops with the same source of water from drains that are used to dispose of the biomedical waste.

In 2012, this allegedly occurred in Accra, when liquid medical waste from the 37 Military Hospital flowed freely into the main gutters of the capital city for over a year, affecting the health especially of those living close to the hospital.

In March 2016, policy think tank, IMANI Africa issued a paper on the need for an urgent legislation on medical waste.

MANI Africa in its report stated that: ‘’Though some existing laws assign functions to some institutions such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Act 490) and National Sanitation Policy (1999), there is no existing specific law that addresses biomedical waste or enforces the adherence to the guidelines in the existing policy.

Consequently, this has not only led to non-adherence to the policy guidelines, reluctance by health facilities to spend on proper medical waste collection and treatment processes, but also limited investment by the private sector in improving existing medical waste management infrastructure. ‘’

They also recommended that ‘’The health and environmental risks associated with the biomedical waste management affects everyone.

The Ministry of Health and the EPA should engage in an intense public awareness campaign to educate Ghanaians on the dangers of improperly managed biomedical waste.

Health facilities across the country should consistently educate all health workers as well as auxiliary support service providers, such as cleaners, on the operation guidelines of biomedical waste management.

Waste segregation using colour codes as described in the Ministry of Health’s policy guidelines should be enforced strictly. This would greatly reduce risks associated with biomedical waste to the immediate health workers and the general public at large.’’