Masvingo Provincial Hospital recently spent many weeks using the council dump site to dispose of potentially harmful medical waste materials that are normally fed into the incinerator for destruction.
The hospital had run out of coal that is used to generate the high amount of heat that an incinerator requires to destroy different kinds of waste products.
A source at the hospital said management had ‘slept on the job’ and failed to procure coal on time, leading to a medical waste disposal crisis that lasted close to four weeks.
“Somebody neglected doing their job and we ended up without any coal. We resorted to using the council dumpsites to dispose of some controlled medical waste materials including sharps (syringes, needles, disposable scalpels and blades). It was a very bad thing to do,” said a source.
The source also said coal had last been procured in 2015 and there was supposed to be a replenishment at the beginning of 2019 when stock levels became seriously subdued.
Materials that are usually incinerated include pathological and infectious waste materials and well as expired pharmaceuticals.
Pathological waste refers to human tissue, organs and fluids while infectious waste means waste contaminated with blood or bodily fluids and waste generated during post-mortems.
Sources said the most common pathological waste coming out of Masvingo Provincial Hospital is generated in the maternity wards in the form of placentas that come out when pregnant women give birth.
Infectious waste at the hospital consists mostly of used bandages and cotton wool.
When contacted for comment, Masvingo Provincial Hospital public relations officer Ruth Zulu confirmed that the hospital had ran out of coal and had used the council dumpsite.
She however denied reports that the hospital had used the dumpsite to dispose of dangerous medical waste, saying only ‘acceptable’ materials were taken there.
“We wouldn’t be that irresponsible because we use the same neighborhoods as everybody else. Together with our families, we are part of the community. Yes, we experienced a shortage of coal due to the economic problems that every other institution is facing but we eventually managed to procure 21 tons from Hwange and that should last us for a long time depending on the amount of work that has to be done,” said Zulu.
She said during the crisis, the hospital improvised ways of destroying waste materials that could not be disposed of at the dumpsite, but could not state categorically how the improvisation was exactly done.
Masvingo acting town clerk Edward Mukaratirwa said if medical waste was dumped at the council dumpsite, it was done without express authority from the local authority.
“It was done without our authority. Environmental health laws do not allow medical waste to be dumped at such places. Such materials should be destroyed in the incinerator,” said Mukaratirwa.
The dumpsite, which is located right in the middle of Runyararo West and Victoria Ranch, has for a long time been a burning issue as it is seriously affecting residents of the two areas.