Casual Workers Suffer Brunt of Handling Medical Waste

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In short
The waste from health facilities is expected to be incinerated, but since some facilities lack incinerators, they are forced to dump it in garbage skips and along the streets. The waste includes used syringes, needles, surgical blades, gloves and blood stained razor blades.

Casual workers of Fort Portal municipal council are suffering the brunt of disposing off medical waste.

The waste from health facilities is expected to be incinerated, but since some facilities lack incinerators, they are forced to dump it in garbage skips and along the streets. The waste includes used syringes, needles, surgical blades, gloves and blood stained razor blades.

In some of the private clinics visited by Uganda Radio Network, the waste material was being dumped in open places behind the clinics in contravention of Section 12(1) of the National Environment Waste Management Regulations 1998.

The clause states that an industry or health facility shall not discharge or dispose of waste in any state into the environment, unless the waste has been treated in a treatment facility and in a manner approved by the lead agency in consultation with NEMA.  

However casual workers have come into contact with the waste when cleaning the streets, which poses a great risk to their lives.

Margaret Tuhaise, a casual worker says that she has been exposed to injuries several times while cleaning the streets. She explains that she is forced to collect the waste in the skips using bare hands.

Tuhaise adds that although she is aware of the dangers she is exposed to, garbage collection is her sole source of income.
 
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David Mugisa, another casual worker says that on daily basis, his colleagues are pricked by syringes or safety pins in garbage skips. Mugisa is worried that they could be exposed to infections such as HIV and hepatitis.

Herbert Tugume, a health worker at His Grace Clinic in Fort Portal municipality says that for more than three years the waste has been dumped in the compound of the clinic and collected by the municipal casual workers.

Tugume adds that their plan to construct an incinerator has been delayed by lack the funds.

Vincent Kagaba, the Fort Portal Municipal health educator says that most private clinics dispose of their waste in garbage skips. He explains that the absence of incinerators at the facilities has made it difficult to control medical waste.

Kagaba says that health facilities are aware of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) waste management regulations, but are reluctant to adhere.

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About the author

Emmanuel Kajubu
Emmanuel Kajubu is proud to have been the first Ugandan journalist to write in depth pieces about the Tooro Kingdom institution. His knowledge of the inner workings of the Tooro Kingdom is what made him privy to the splits in the royal family. These splits almost challenged Tooro Omukama Oyo Nyimba Iguru's reign.

Culture, agriculture and the environment are just two areas of many of interest to Kajubu. As long as he has held a pen, Kajubu has also written about public policy, health and crime.

Kajubu is keen on impacting his society not just as a writer but also a trainer and mentor. Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts fall under his docket. Kajubu has been a URN staff member since 2008.