The City of Windhoek is currently constructing two medical waste treatment facilities in the northern industrial area at a cost of N$50 million. During the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday Windhoek City Mayor Muesee Kazapua said there is a shortcoming in the current disposal and treatment of medical waste that calls for the establishment of facilities to safely treat medical waste, as the current facilities no longer have the capacity to adequately dispose of and process the amount of medical waste in the city. Medical waste includes discarded biological products, such as blood or human tissue removed from operating rooms, morgues, laboratories or other medical facilities. It also includes bedding, bandages, syringes and other materials used in treating patients. “The facility will be used for the disposal and processing of waste generated by medical healthcare facilities, pharmacies, veterinary services, blood transfusion and other services associated with medical care,” he said. Kazapua further said Windhoek is no more as clean a city as it used to be – especially the informal settlements – and the failure to responsibly manage medical waste, whether in storage, transportation, treatment or the eventual disposal, presents a health risk and threat to the environment. “Environmental management is fast becoming a central discipline worldwide and concepts such as sustainable development, cleaner production and pollution prevention are continually brought to our attention,” the city’s mayor explained. He said the facility was designed following consultations and inputs from generators of medical waste. “The facility will be equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, carefully chosen to be able to sustainably treat most of the medical waste generated in Windhoek,” Kazapua elaborated. The plants would also render services to surrounding towns, such as Rehoboth, Gobabis and Okahandja: “The facility will also serve as a skills transfer centre, as it will be open to other local authorities to gather experience and expertise in the sustainable management of medical waste. This will positively impact how waste is managed in Namibia as a whole,” he said. The two plants include one wet autoclave (a pressure chamber used to sterilise equipment by subjecting them to high-pressure saturated steam) and a diesel-fired incinerator that will burn the waste material. Both systems will have air pollution cleaning equipment to ensure potential contaminants are eliminated.
16 billion injections are administered worldwide every year. Safely disposing of the needles and other waste from health care is a challenge because of the risk of infection. It is time for doctors’ rounds in Ward 1 at the Coast General Provincial and Referral Hospital. The doctors and nurses move from bed to bed giving tablets, fixing drip lines and giving injections. After giving one of the patients an injection, a nurse in a white hijab drops the used needle in a yellow box labelled “Sharps Only” before moving to another bin where she drops the soiled cotton swab and gloves. Every ward in the hospital has the conspicuous red, yellow, and black waste bins. They might not mean much to an ordinary person, but to the workers here, they are life-changing. Ten years ago, the needles, cotton wool and gloves would have been dumped into the same bin. The hospital’s deputy nursing officer, Mr Stephen Masha, says the institution produces 60-80kg of infectious and highly infectious waste per day. Each patient produces about 0.2kg of waste per day, 20 percent of which is infectious. Left lying around, this waste provides a breeding ground for infections and diseases and poses a serious threat to those who come across it. Salome Baya and Jaribu Khamis know this only too well. In November 2013, just a month after she began working at the hospital, Ms Baya, 32, was cleaning the labour ward when she came upon a stack of papers on the floor. When she picked it up, she felt something prick her finger. “I knew it was a needle. It got stuck on my finger. I flushed my finger under running water before going to see a doctor, who examined my hand and gave me a PEP,” she recalls.