15 counties sign medical waste disposal contract

WHO says medical waste disposal is giving poor countries sleepless nights. FILE PHOTO | NMG
WHO says medical waste disposal is giving poor countries sleepless nights. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Public health facilities in counties can now safely dispose of their medical waste.

This follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Governors and a Belgium company, AMB Ecosteryl, who will oversee the exercise.

The agreement, governors say, will increase the health facilities capacity to dispose of the waste generated mainly from laboratories, dental and medical research facilities, blood banks among others.

Others are expired chemicals and drugs, contaminated, blood, body fluids, surgical waste, body parts, medical devices and radioactive materials.

In a statement Tuesday, CoG said the project is currently in phase two and will see 15 counties benefit.

The devolved units will receive mid-sized microwave medical waste equipment and a generator.

“Under phase one, eight counties have already benefited with large sized microwave equipment,” said Wycliffe Oparanya, who chairs the CoG’s Finance Committee.

“The phase is still on track though slightly behind schedule. Kisii and Nakuru counties have received the first set of medical waste equipment that is already at the port of Mombasa,” he said.

He said they have met with PNB Paribas Fortis Bank to discuss financial agreements.

County governments are in charge of solid waste management but a number of them experience the challenge of managing the waste.

Health care wastes are not segregated from the general wastes.

As a result, they are mixed, which poses a risk of infection to health care workers and the general public.

“In general, healthcare wastes are managed improperly and inconsistently and do not comply with Environmental Management, Public Health Act and World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended guidelines,” said Mr Oparanya.

According to the WHO, 15 per cent of medical wastes is hazardous material that is infectious and should be treated with care.

“Every year, an estimated 16 billion injections are administered worldwide, but not all of the needles and syringes are properly disposed of afterwards hence creating a risk of injury and infection and opportunities for reuse,” says WHO.

Injections with contaminated needles and syringes in low- and middle-income countries are a major threat. In 2010, unsafe injections were responsible for 33,800 new HIV infections, 1.7 million hepatitis B infections and 315 000 hepatitis C new cases.

WHO developed the first global and comprehensive guidance document titled Safe management of wastes from health-care activities. 

The guideline addresses waste minimisation and recycling, handling, storage and transportation, treatment and disposal options and training.

Governors led by their lobby chairperson Peter Munya travelled to Mons Medical Waste Plant in Belgium last week to visit the firm that manufactures medical waste equipment.

“There is a life-threatening risk that is posed by improper disposal of medical waste. It can kill patients and employees. It’s that serious,” said Mr Munya.

Experts have said that inadequacies in laws and regulations have left room for malpractices.

According to the governors, the existing Public Health Act has no specific clauses on healthcare waste management, which allows room for careless waste handling.