/ INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Medical waste scandal at 37 Hospital
Investigations by The Globe
newspaper have uncovered at the 37 Military Hospital near the Flagstaff House
in Accra a massive medical waste scandal, the type of which has led to health
authorities losing their jobs in other countries, with others serving severe
jail terms for endangering public health.
For more than a year now, highly infectious
liquid medical waste from 37 Military Hospital has been flowing freely into
Accraâ€™s main gutters, with authorities at the hospital making no attempts to
reverse the trend.
Residents who live around the immediate
surroundings behind the Hospitalâ€” who are at risk of contracting HIV,
tuberculosis, and hepatitis and from the liquid medical waste â€” say they have
been getting ill often these days and blamed â€śthe hazardous medical waste from
The free online dictionary defines medical
waste to mean, â€śAny discarded biologic product such as blood or tissue removed
from operating rooms, morgues, laboratories, or other medical facilities. The
term may also be applied to bedding, bandages, syringes, and similar materials
that have been used in treating patients and to animal carcasses or body parts
used in research. Medical waste is regulated at the state and local levels. â€ť
There are different types of medical waste management systems in countries
around the world. Even though, medical waste disposal systems are not
completely risk-free, the dangers can be drastically reduced with care, using
Experts say improper disposal of medical waste
may result in damage to humans by sharp instruments, deadly diseases
transmitted to humans by infectious agents, and contamination of the environment
by venomous and perilous chemicals.
International standards therefore require
proper management of medical waste to reduce the environmental and public
health risk such wastes pose.
But The Globeâ€™s investigations found that the
main pipeline that transports liquid medical waste from the 37 Military
Hospital got damaged over the year ago during what one insider called â€śa site
clearing exercise by contractors who have been engaged to develop a huge parcel
of land lying between the hospital and the only treatment plant serving the
facility. â€ť â€śSince then, we have not been able to restore the pipeline. What it
means is that liquid waste from mortuary, the hospitalâ€™s theatres, maternity
ward and many more have been moving freely into the capitalâ€™s main drains,â€ť an
official of the hospital -- who blew the lid on the scandal to this reporter --
said on condition of anonymity.
â€śIn fact Management of the hospital is aware
of the problem but they have either pretended not to know or are doing very
little or nothing at all to address it,â€ť the source said.
â€śAgain, what this situation means is that
people who eat fresh vegetables like garbage, carrots, tomatoes, onions, etc
produced along the main drains in Accra using water from those drains are in
danger of contracting all kinds of deadly diseases, including HIV,
tuberculosis, hepatitis. The reason is that the water the vegetable growers use
has millions of very deadly gems in there,â€ť another source added. As at the
time of going to press, the Public Affairs Unit of the 37 Military Hospital
said it was investigating the matter and could therefore not immediately
comment. This reporter had previously placed a series of calls and text
messages to the unit, but got no response.
This reporterâ€™s investigation revealed that
the only treatment plant that serves the hospital is in perfect working
condition. However, it has been lying idle for more than a year now. Damage to
the pipeline that transports waste water from the hospital to the plant for
treatment means the treatment plant can no longer process perilous liquid waste
from the hospital before they are released into the nationâ€™s drains.
When The Globe visited the site, our reporter
saw a wide expanse of stagnant water sitting on the large track of land cleared
for a major construction project the hospital intends to put up behind the long
line of bungalows that house workers and soldiers of the hospital. The water,
some of which flow strait into the capitalâ€™s main drains, is from the hospital
mortuary, theatres and the hospitalâ€™s labour wards.
Apart from the liquid waste, The Globe saw
other forms of general waste, including used medical gloves, syringes and blood
samples blood stained bandages in drains around the area. Alhassan Iddi, 35, an
unemployed man from Nima, who regularly scavenges for metal and plastic objects
at the site, told The Globe â€śthe problem has persisted for more than a year
â€śI am a scrap dealer. I often come here
looking for metal and rubber objects discarded by the hospital because I am
unemployed,â€ť he told The Globe.
â€śAt times I find objects such as discarded
syringes in the drains,â€ť he said, adding â€śSometimes you see children running
after each other with these needles. On Many occasions, I sacked them from here
buy they mostly come back to play with these used syringesâ€ť.
Speaking to The Globe, US trained Medical
Practitioner and Lecturer, Dr Kwabena Arthur Kennedy, said â€śif it is true that
liquid medical waste from the hospital is being discharged directly into
Accraâ€™s drains without treatment, then we have a looming heath disasterâ€ť.