The Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital is on the spot following open disposal and burning of medical waste, exposing residents to harmful emissions.
The hospital has been dumping and burning its infectious and non-infectious waste at an open dumping site near the mental health unit due to lack of an incinerator.
A spot check by the Nation revealed yellow, red and black disposal bags dumped at the open site where drug containers, used casts and diapers, among other waste, are scattered.
Kenyan healthcare waste guidelines require that yellow and red bags be used for containing infectious and highly infectious waste respectively, which should be treated by incineration before disposal.
Yellow bags handle waste such as used gloves, dressings, body fluids and used specimen containers while red bags contain laboratory specimens, containers with biological agents, anatomical and pathological waste.
The guidelines state that “the health care waste storage area should be secured and have impermeable, hard-standing floor with good drainage and should be easy to clean and disinfect”.
A public health official who spoke to the Nation said the hospital has been using an open dumping site after its incinerator was demolished by the contractor who is putting up a ward block there.
“It is true Meru Referral Hospital does not have an incinerator. There was an oversight that led to its demolition when the contractor started work. Another incinerator is being built at another location,” the official said.
Meru County Health Executive Misheck Mutuma who visited the hospital following media reports, admitted that the medical waste is being burnt in an open area and directed the contractor to ensure a new incinerator is ready in two weeks.
“I also direct the hospital’s management to transport the medical waste to hospitals where there are incinerators for proper treatment and disposal,” Mr Mutuma said.
Imenti North Sub-County administrator termed the open dumping as hazardous, adding that the county government will ensure the medical waste is transported elsewhere for incineration.
A health worker who spoke on condition of anonymity said the dumpsite produces a disturbing stench when the waste is burned.
According to the national guidelines for safe management of healthcare waste, every health facility must have a proper healthcare waste management plan, including packaging, segregation, labelling, transportation, storage, tracking, treatment and disposal.
The guidelines state that, “Healthcare waste should be treated prior to disposal so as to ensure protection from potential hazards posed by these wastes. To be effective, treatment must reduce or eliminate the risk present in the waste so that it no longer poses a hazard to persons who may be exposed to it”.
Health waste in hospitals comprise of up to 25 percent of hazardous material which is infectious and can cause injuries and infections if not properly disposed.
According to the Meru County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) 2018-2022, the county government plans to construct 10 incinerators at the referral and sub-county hospitals at an estimated cost of Sh100 million.
In 2017, the Council of Governors signed a memorandum of understanding with a Belgian company, AMB Ecosteryl, to oversee safe disposal of healthcare waste by providing equipment.