7 MAY 2004 - Over 100 people from 50 hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal attended a three-day workshop, from 5-7 May 2004, which was organised by groundWork. The focus of the workshop was health care waste and incineration.

It has become clear that management of health care waste in South Africa is not given the prominence it demands. In general there is a lack of understanding of what management of health care waste entails. It is not simply about the collecting of waste from the hospitals. Many of the participants voiced their concern that waste management was not being taken seriously in many of the health institutions and that if a waste management plan were to be put into practice there would need to be greater support and awareness from senior management for it to succeed.

Participants also expressed their concern of a lack of understanding and information regarding the health and environmental impacts of incineration, i.e. disruption of the immune, reproductive and hormonal systems. Even though the Kwazulu-Natal Department of Health has stated that they would phase out the burning of health care waste, it seems that there are some incinerators operating without permits.

The participants were taken on a trip to an incinerator in Ixopo and were shocked to hear that government has been allowing this incinerator to operate without a permit, even audit reports show that the incinerator does not meet the requirements. The Department of Health needs to take a stronger stand on incinerators; if they are committed to phasing out incinerators, why then are they still allowing many incinerators to operate in the province?

GroundWork has released a health care waste manual, "Managing hospital waste: A guide for Southern African health care institutions". The manual is based on work done with two hospitals, namely Edendale hospital and Ngwelezane hospital. These case studies are proof that medical waste can be reduced without burning. We hope that medical institutions will use this manual as a guide to start implementing waste reduction programmes at their institutions.

For more information on the manual, please contact groundWork (033) 342-5662.

Ferrial Adam
Research, Media and Corporate Accountability
groundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa
P.O. Box 2375, Pietermaritzburg, 3200, South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Fax: +27 (0) 33 342 5665
Cell: +27 (0) 84 484 3387
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