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Toxic medical waste.

Summary: Khaled Mahmoud has been a practising dentist for about 25 years now and, although on paper he hands over the medical waste of his clinic to the nearest public hospital for thermal treatment, the fact is that the red plastic bags find their way to the garbage collector.

While, household refuse still stands as a challenging problem in this country despite efforts of consecutive governments to impose a system, the problem with medical waste is far more complicated.

According to the Ministry of Health regulations, owners of private clinics are required to come under contract with a government-run hospital to have wastes burnt in its furnace in return for an annual fee. Moreover, a doctor is asked to pay an additional LE five for each kilo of medical waste with a minimum amount of four kilos per week.

Doctors complain however that the waste management system is deficient, since furnaces do not engage collectors which means that doctors are supposed to take the clinic's refuse by themselves to hospital furnaces. Adding insult to injury they also pay extra fees in the monthly electricity bills for garbage services.

"What really happens is that thermal treatment departments in those hospitals are not really keen on fulfilling the process as they should so long as the minimum weekly fee of LE 20 is regularly paid", Mahmoud told the Egyptian Mail.

Experts say that this country is in need of 400 incinerators at a time when the available number is l50 only. In Gharbia governorate, for instance, there are five dilapidated furnaces that cater for the wastes of eleven hospitals and medical centres as well as l2 kidney centres.

S.A , a gynaecologist in Qaliubia governorate, Greater Cairo, told Al-Gomhuria Arabic daily that she pays an annual fee of LE 600 to a furnace that has been out of order for years. She was compelled to include this contract in the documents she presented to the ministry to get her clinic licensed.

"My husband who runs a medical laboratory pays some LE 2000 per year to the same facility and yet the garbage collector picks up the bags at the door of his clinic", she added.

Because of the inconvenience of the medical waste management system some doctors say they resort to burning wastes in barrels on the roof-tops of their buildings.

According to Dr Kamal Tamer of the National Research Centre toxic and contagious wastes, whether solid or organic, that are dumped on the street, are a major source of danger. One way of safe disposal of medical waste is burning at temperatures between 900 and l200 Celsius. However, he admitted though that in Egypt furnaces work at temperatures not exceeding 500 Celsius, which, he said, does not guarantee total eradication of epidemic risk.

He warned against present malpractices where medical waste is usually dealt with as ordinary refuse, thus sold to garbage dealers, sorted and recycled. He urged consumers not to buy cheap plastic products, stuffed teddy bears or pillows that are sometimes made of recycled contaminated medical wastes.

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Publication:The Egyptian Gazette (Cairo, Egypt)
Date:Feb 26, 2013
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