Friday 20 April 2012 - groundWork leads seminar on green health care risk waste management

Groundwork, in partnership with eThekwini Metro Municipality and the KwaZulu Natal Department of Health, began the first of many workshops concerned with the public health sector on Tuesday 10th April 2012 at Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban.

Approximately 110 health professionals from the various spheres of the public health sector in the KZN region, gathered to listen and engage with issues of health care waste risk management (HCRWM).

Mrs. Ngcobo and Mr. Ngema (eThekwini Metro Municipality) opened and welcomed those that were gathered for the day-long seminar. Mr. Msimang (Healthcare Waste Manager for the KZN Department of Health) spoke about key issues affecting the health sector, such as restructuring HCRWM in KZN as well as the appointment of Waste Management Officers (WMO), a new initiative taken by the department. The department considers WMOs as environmental health practitioners who have the technical expertise and practical knowledge that is vital to successful environmental health practices.

Mrs. Bell (independent researcher and groundWork affiliate) carried the bulk of the presentations for the day, discussing HCRWM in terms of the real cost of waste in the health sector and the main role players in the cycle of waste. She highlighted that "there is no away with waste", a statement complimented by Mr. Euripidou's (groundWork Research Manager and Environmental Health Campaigner) comment made earlier in the day that "waste is now a commodity". She also noted the legal requirements attached to waste disposal, and importantly, the need to understand the journey of waste, "the cradle to grave assessment" and that green procurement and correct separation at source is essential here.

The public health employees were enthused to not only have this time to reflect on and improve their knowledge of waste management in their field of work, but also to engage with the various speakers in a meaningful way.  

In closing, Euripidou spoke about the way forward for future seminars, particularly in terms of what specific issues the public health employees feel need to be addressed. Lastly, Bell stressed the importance of the health practitioners that work in this field daily, to comment on the new draft health care risk waste regulations before the 1st June 2012.