Dramatic Improvements in Edendale Hospital

13 March 2002 - The number of red bags (containing infectious medical waste) generated at Edendale Hospital daily has dropped from an average of between 250 to 300 to around 70 bags a day. This has resulted in a cost saving for the hospital of between R35 000 and R40 000 a month. This is a significant cost saving for this government hospital.

This is one example of the dramatic improvements in medical waste management at Edendale hospital since the medical waste skills-share that was conducted at the hospital in August last year by local NGO groundWork and the international NGO Health Care Without Harm.

The aim of the skills-share was to help selected hospitals to better manage their waste, thereby reducing the amount of waste generated, saving costs and reducing risks to hospital workers and surrounding communities. Edendale Hospital was selected because of the scandal in late 2000 when nurses were found to be flushing medical waste down the toilets. groundWork hopes that through the support it is continuing to provide to Edendale Hospital, this Hospital will become a model “green’ hospital for other hospitals to follow.

Dr L. Ramiah, the Chief Medical Superintendent of Edendale Hospital is very happy with the visible improvements taking place at the hospital. “I am very appreciative of the support we have received from groundWork, and also commend the hospital staff for their enthusiastic commitment to improving medical waste management in Edendale”, says Dr Ramiah

“I have returned to Edendale Hospital on numerous occasions since the skills-share to assess improvements and progress“, says Llewellyn Leonard of groundWork. “I have visited hospital wards and found that domestic/general waste is now only going into the clear bags allocated for this purpose. This was a change from during the skills-share when we found that the special red bags (for infectious medical waste) often contained mostly general waste. During the skills-share we explained that if the number of red bags could be reduced the costs at the institution could be reduced significantly considering that red bags are the most expensive to purchase and dispose of. Currently, the red bag waste is collected by Compass Waste Services who incinerate the waste at an incinerator in Ixopo.

Besides the reduction in red bag waste, there have been other improvements in waste management at the hospital.

The hospital has started constructing a new building which will be used as a secure storage area for storing red bags and sharps containers awaiting collection by Compass Waste. Previously, the medical waste had not been stored in a secured area, and there had been problems with people from the adjacent community raiding the red bags for sharps buckets and re-useable needles. While the new storage facility is being completed, the gate entrance to the current storage area will now always be kept under lock and key.

The hospital has also started collecting all cardboard waste for recycling.

The Hospital’s Chief Pharmacist, has also started disposing of used vials in red bags so that they are no longer taken to the general landfill sites, where children sometimes play.

“When I reflect on Edendale Hospital, I always remember the past scandal of nurses flushing medical waste down toilets. However, now my overall impression about its commitments to better manage its waste is encouraging. If we can succeed in implementing an effective waste-reduction program at Edendale Hospital, we can do it anywhere else in the country, and I am certain that it will become a model for other institutions to follow. It will not be an instantaneous achievement, but it will require time and patience, and in the end Edendale Hospitals as well as other institutions will reap the fruits of their hard labour”, says Mr Leonard.

groundWork’s assistance to Edendale Hospital is part of groundWork’s Medical Waste and Incineration Project. For more information please contact Llewellyn Leonard on 033-342 5662 or email: llewellyn@groundwork.org.za