Kenia - Seeking better ways of managing medical waste
By EUNICE KILONZO
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 per cent 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.
A street boy picks a piece of biomedical waste; syringes, needles, drugs and other medical wasts, that was found at Nyeri dumpsite on August 18, 2014. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYIÂ