Do you know how our hospital wastes are disposed?

CAP is disturbed at the findings in the Auditor General’s Report 2007 on the appalling methods used to dispose of clinical waste at hospitals and clinics.

Clinical waste can be described as any waste which consists wholly or partly of human or animal tissue, blood or other bodily fluids and excretions. It can also include drugs or other pharmaceutical products, swabs or dressings, and syringes, needles or other sharp instruments.

Clinical waste is regarded as potentially hazardous to any person coming into contact with it, unless it is suitably treated.

Among the findings revealed in the AG’s report were of clinical waste contained and dumped in drums labelled ‘domestic waste’ – taken for disposal from hospital grounds using ambulances, passenger vans and commercial vehicles – and such waste being handled by ordinary hospital personnel rather than trained staff.

In addition, needles and other sharp objects were not separated from the main waste pile nor disposed of using “sharp” containers, as is the requirement.

At one public hospital, it was found that the designated yellow drums used for collecting clinical waste were badly maintained and almost never washed. On the rare occasion that they were cleaned, wrong methods were employed.

To make matters worse, the waste water was allowed to flow into common public drains without first being treated.

Irregularities were also detected in the awarding of concession contracts for the disposal of clinical waste. Among the culprits identified were the state-of-the-art hospitals in Putrajaya and Selayang, as well as the National Blood Bank.

CAP calls on the Health Ministry and the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to shed some light on why clinical waste is still being handled and disposed of in a manner contrary to regulations, when the problem has already been recognised for several years now.

In addition, CAP calls on the Government to inform the public on the legal action that will be taken against offenders in the affected hospitals and health establishments throughout the country who have flouted the law with respect to the handling of potentially hazardous clinical waste.