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Medical waste disposal: A problem plaguing Khartoum

“You can’t treat people then make others sick!” Outraged, the Dardog and Nabta resistance committees decided to address the medical waste disposal incident in a Nabta area square. In a statement, the resistance committees held the Khartoum state government, the Federal Ministry of Health, and the Blood Bank’s administration responsible; stressing that they were not going to stand idly by “in light of a potential environmental disaster.”

AlTaghyeer: Khartoum: Amal Muhammad al-Hassan

A member of the Services and Change Committee, Ahmed al-Sulaimi, spoke bitterly about their shock at the littering incident, explaining to AlTaghyeer tha the Resistance and Services Committees in the area had converted an old landfill, located near the “Nahla” petrol pump in Block 1 in Nabta, to a field by participating in its cleanliness and the transfer of waste from it.

Al-Sulaimi added that they had not forgotten their supervisory role, and they wrote down the number plates of any car that dumped waste in the old landfill and opened a complaint against the perpetrators.

He pointed out that as soon as they found the medical waste, they informed the local authorities in, and raised the matter to the governor, the police, and all concerned authorities.

“We found remnants of operations, blood bags and a lot of medical waste.”

He revealed that they had overseen the medical waste removal on the same day, repeating bitterly that he was “surprised how hospitals that treat patients are the same as ones causing other people’s sickness!”

Against the Unknown

The Nabta Resistance Committees accused two well-known medical hospitals, a government and a private one, while the Director of the General Administration of Medical Waste, Nusseibeh Nour el-Din, confirmed that a complaint had been opened in the consumer protection, denying accusations against a specific party, stressing that the investigation into the incident is currently underway.

Nour el-Din told AlTaghyeer that the issue of medical waste disposal in Sudan is a crisis of “awareness and culture”, and has nothing to do with a lack of capabilities.

She stated that the Saudi complex was also guilty of improper medical waste disposal, adding that she did not know the entity to which the Saudi complex belonged to.

The health director confirmed the Supreme Council for the Environment (to which her management belongs), and the Ministry of Health, are presently looking into the matter of medical waste.

“Health” Accused

Salem Saleh, director of the Saudi-Sudanese Complex for Sorting, Recycling and Treatment of Medical Waste, disagreed with her about the interest of her administration and the Ministry of Health in the issue of medical waste disposal, and even went further by accusing the Ministry of Health in Sudan of abandoning its supervisory responsibilities.

He explained in his testimony to AlTaghyeer that “in the past, there was permanent supervision and inspection of hospitals, and that no longer exists now.”

The Saudi-Sudanese Complex medical waste director added that granting medical facilities certification, or renewing one, was related to them contracting a specialized body for the disposal of medical waste, which is no longer available.

He indicated that the number of contractors with the complex is currently (400) medical facilities, significantly less than the earlier number of contractors (1047). He stressed that their institution is the only entity that disposes of medical waste in the country.

Saleh revealed the process behind their waste disposal method, saying that they first collect it from hospitals through a specialized team and dedicated cars, and is subsequently treated by placing it in a room 7 meters long and two meters wide under a temperature ranging between 150-400 degrees to kill bacteria, and subjected to pressure ranging from Between 4.8 and 6 psi (twice the atmospheric pressure), medical waste remains inside this special room for between 30 to 45 minutes.

Saleh returned to disagree with the Director of Medical Waste Management again about the reason behind the hospitals’ failure to contract a body specialized in medical waste disposal, citing “costs” as a primary reason, pointing out that the Supreme Council for the Environment transports “solid waste” from hospitals, which the latter does not separate from “medical waste”, and hinting at the existence of differences between the Ministry of Health and the Supreme Council for the Environment.

Red is Dangerous

Red bags are placed on garbage bins in which medical waste is collected, while black bags are placed for other solid waste, according to health specialist, Rayan Salahuddin.

Rayan confirmed to AlTaghyeer that the sorting responsibility lies with them as health officers, in addition to controlling all waste coming out of operating rooms, dialysis, and clinics.

According to Rayan, sharp medical tools such as scalpels and syringes are located in a special place because of their danger, known as the “safety box.”

In the same context, she indicated that all COVID-19 patients’ belongings are considered medical waste, including the mattresses and utensils that the patients use.

“We mark these bags and spray them with chlorine,” Rayan said.

A special storage for medical waste is available inside hospitals. This is what Rayan knows from her experience working in a number of medical facilities, pointing out the existence of another storage facility for other waste, which is not transported by regular waste trucks, but through dedicated vehicles belonging to the Supreme Council for the Environment.

Medical waste is considered, according to experts, a source of infection, and has negative effects on the respiratory system if incinerated and transmitted through the air from one place to another.

Medical waste not only harms humans, but also has negative effects on the environment as it pollutes the soil in which it is buried in, and also affects water sources if they are placed near them.

Medical waste is hazardous and is severely harmful to humans, animals, and the environment in normal conditions.

Currently, with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the speed of its spread, and its mutations, the danger is undoubtedly multiplied.

At a time when there are news about the presence of medical waste on the side of the road, juxtaposed against the existence of factories that recycle medical waste, is it right for the medical authorities to turn into, as the members of the Nabta resistance committees had accused them of, disease spreaders?

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