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Medical waste management at Tygerberg hospital in the Western Cape, South Africa
Abor, Patience Aseweh
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This study examined the medical waste management practices of Tygerberg Hospital. The researcher made use of both primary and secondaiy data. Since this was a is study, the analysis is essentially descriptive.The results of this study revealed that both general and medical wastes are generated in the hospital. Tygerberg Hospital does not quantify medical waste. Segregation of medical wastes into infectious medical waste and non-infectious medical waste is not conducted according to definite rules and standards. The hospital does not label infectious waste with Biohazard symbol. Separation of medical waste and municipal waste is however practiced to a satisfactory extent. Wheeled trolleys are used for on-site transportation of waste from the points of production (different wards) to the temporary storage area. Staff responsible for collecting medical waste use almost complete personal protective equipment. The results of this study indicated that off-site transportation of the hospital waste is undertaken by a private waste management company. Waste is transported daily and small pickups are mainly used by the waste management company for transporting the waste to an off-site area for treatment and disposal. The final disposal of the medical waste is done by the private waste management company. The main treatment method used in the final disposal of infectious waste is incineration. Non-infectious waste is disposed of using land disposal method. The hospital does not recycle medical waste materials except white office paper and mixed office paper and the use of empty containers of antiseptics for the collection and temporary storage of sharps.The hospital does not provide training for staff members on the health and environmental effects of infectious waste. The waste management company's workers have also not received any formal training with regards to medical waste management. The study showed that Tygerberg Hospital does not have a policy and plan in place for managing medical waste. There is no definite policy or plan for purchasing the necessary equipment and for providing the facilities for the correct management of medical waste in the hospital. There are also no policies and guidelines regarding the recycling of medical waste products. There are a number of problems the hospital faces in terms of medical waste management, including; lack of necessary rules, regulations and instructions on the different aspects of collection and disposal of waste, intermingling of hazardous wastes with domestic waste in the hospital sometimes, failure to quantify the waste generated in reliable records, lack of use of coloured bags by limiting the bags to only one colour for all waste, the absence of a dedicated waste manager, the supervisor in charge of general services has waste management as part of his job schedule, and there is no committee responsible for monitoring the management of medical waste. From the results of this study, it is obvious that medical waste management is not practiced according to the World Health Organisation's (WHO's) recommended standards. There are some areas where medical wastes are not properly managed. It is imperative for significant investment in the proper management of medical waste in order to reduce the health risk it poses.