Monday, July 15, 2024

Government presents new system to dispose of medical waste

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A set of rules guiding to how properly get rid of medical waste now makes it illegal and fineable to dispose of it improperly. The Medical Waste Regulations ensure that medical waste is managed via improved storage, transportation, and disposal throughout the country.

The Medical Waste Regulations were signed on November 29, 2021, by the Government of Belize, through the Department of the Environment (DOE) within the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Management. The government-endorsed the enactment of these regulations recognizing that medical waste management is largely unregulated and unmanaged in Belize and its effects on human health and the environment due to improper incineration and open burning of medical waste. The regulations also considered the autoclave system installed at the Mile 3 Transfer Station in Belize City. This system will burn medical waste and reduce the release of organic pollutants into the natural environment.

The regulations call on those monitoring medical waste disposal to adequate record dates, types, and amounts of waste generated. The records should also include where such waste is shipped or disposed of. According to DOE, they will be implementing a medical waste collection and transportation program to assist hospitals and clinics in facilitating the proper handling, treatment, and disposal of medical waste.

The common practice in San Pedro over the years

In San Pedro Town, according to information from the previous management of the Dr. Otto Rodriguez San Pedro Polyclinic II, the clinic deals with two types of waste. Green, which is regular trash generated from the offices and other areas of the clinic, and red waste. The San Pedro Town Council picks up the green waste, but the red, which includes syringes and other items containing fluids such as blood, must be disposed of by the clinic. It was reported that the red waste was disposed at the local dump. The disposal is usually done at least once a week by reportedly only one person allowed to be near the bags carrying the waste. A specific area of the dump is selected where it is burned in a hole to get rid of any hazardous substances or pathogens; afterward, the burned waste is buried. The method is considered safe since its incineration helps kill any bacteria or virus and the designation area warns anyone to stay away from it. The practice also revealed that anytime this type of medical waste is disposed of, the local authorities and San Pedro Town Council, are made aware of the activity. Attempts were made to contact representatives of the polyclinic to verify if new procedures have been implemented in medical waste management, but the person in charge was unavailable.

During the Medical Waste Regulations development, stakeholders were engaged in all major municipalities. In February 2020, DOE hosted a waste management workshop in San Pedro to speak on the upcoming regulations. It was emphasized that medical personnel must abide by the rules to avoid hefty fines upwards of $25,000 or imprisonment.

The regulations can be viewed and downloaded by clicking on this link https://doe.gov.bz/download/medical-waste-regulations-2021/.

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