Medical waste dumped in Centurion sparks concern
A concerned citizen from Centurion, north of Johannesburg, fears the worst after discovering Covid-19 waste dumped a few metres away from a hospital near where he lives.
Stephanus*, 34, said while walking down the street on Thursday and again on Monday he saw the waste lying on the streets.
“I was walking down the street on Thursday and just after Unitas Hospital discovered garbage thrown just next to the hospital. There were a few things laying on the ground. Some of the things are used to take blood and there were gloves on the ground,” he said.
While it is unclear if the waste is potentially hazardous, Stephanus said the manner that the materials were disposed of was of great concern as most of them are marked as Covid-19 items. He was concerned about the health risk, especially when the waste is dumped near residential areas and children could easily touch it while playing.
“It is a health situation because all those things are on the floor and people can get easily exposed. Everything there is Covid-related. Inside the bag all the medical stuff is for Covid-19. There are also PPE clothes that are used in Covid-19 wards. Everything is not sealed but just laying on the floor,” he said.
“We are concerned about old people here in the community and children. Children are always walking up and down, so what if they go and pick up those things? It can cause a lot of sickness, in addition to Covid-19.”
Eugene Ferreira, general manager of Netcare Unitas Hospital, said it had come to their attention that some medical materials originating from other health-care practices were dumped about 300m down the road from the hospital.
“Netcare Unitas Hospital has the strictest policies and procedures in place regarding the disposal of medical waste, including personal protective equipment (PPE), and can categorically state that these materials do not come from our hospital,” he said.
“As a responsible corporate citizen, we have in the meantime arranged for our contracted waste removal service to dispose of the refuse safely as soon as possible for the protection of the community.
“We have also arranged for our security personnel to guard the pile of waste in the interim to prevent anyone from the community touching it.
“We have also reached out to the owners of the building where the waste appears to have originated from to reiterate the importance of disposing of all waste safely and responsibly.”
Ferreira said Netcare’s strict policies on disposal of medical waste are in line with legislation and guidelines.
“All PPE within the hospital is managed as infectious health-care risk waste. It should also be noted, that if any type of PPE is found in general waste (observable as a result of the use of clear bags) on hospital property, the entire bag is considered contaminated, placed in a red disposal bag and is also managed as infectious health-care risk waste.”
“All staff members and contractors have been trained in this process. Furthermore, standard operating procedures on the safe handling of both medical waste and general waste are made available and communicated to all staff members.”
Ferreira said waste inspections and continuous monitoring of waste disposal practices is done at site level to ensure that staff members and the public are protected at all times.
“Adequate containers are also made available to ensure safe management of Covid-19 related waste. General waste generated in Covid-19 wards or isolation units is immediately disposed of in the single-use health-care risk waste (HCRW) box set at ward level,” he said.
Gauteng department of health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said: “We have shared the matter with our team to engage with the relevant municipality regarding the waste. We do not know what is the waste specifically so we cannot speak to whether they are hazardous or not.”
* Identity withheld