By Omar Bah
Minister of Health on Saturday laid the foundation stone for the first-ever medical waste treatment plant at former president Yahya Jammeh’s Farato farm.
The plant is meant to address the poor state of the country’s health-care waste management system.
Dr. Ahmadou Samateh disclosed that the land, formerly owned by Jammeh in Farato, has been allocated to the Ministry of Health. He revealed that an emergency treatment center of hundred beds, a national reference laboratory for The Gambia, a national blood bank, and a new teaching hospital will be constructed on the land. He said China has already offered to support the construction of the teaching hospital. “We are also upgrading a number of health centers to major health centers,” he said.
According to statistics, of the total waste generated by health-care activities, 15% is considered hazardous material that may be infectious, toxic, or radioactive.
Every year, an estimated 16 billion injections are administered worldwide, but not all of the needles and syringes are properly disposed of afterward. The types of waste generated from health care include; infectious waste, pathological waste, sharps waste, pharmaceutical waste, and radioactive waste.
In an attempt to address these challenges, the health ministry through grant support from the World Bank procured a clinical waste treatment machine [Ecostery 250 series] which will be installed for clinical waste treatment. The ministry has also purchased four trucks for the disposal of waste.
The machine will treat waste generated in health care facilities by microwave disinfection. The machine, which has no harmful emissions, is capable of treating 300kg of clinical waste per hour with 99.9% disinfection efficiency.
Speaking shortly before laying the foundation, Minister Samateh said it has been a challenge over the years for the ministry to manage clinical waste generated from health facilities across the country.
He said the availability of a functional clinical waste management facility was a priority by the ministry.
“The poor management of health care waste exposes health care workers, waste handlers and the community to infections, toxic effects and can result in disease or injury. The management of health care waste has become an urgent need to safeguard the public health from adverse effects due to improper management of health care waste,” he said.
In The Gambia, he added, medical waste disposal has become even more difficult due to inadequate and insufficient infrastructural facilities for the management and treatment of clinical waste.
“The majority of health facilities do not practice safe waste handling, storage, and disposal methods because of inappropriate infrastructure and even the lack of appropriate knowledge,” he added. He urged the contractor to ensure there is value for money in his work.
The WB country representative, Feyi Boroffice commended the Ministry of Health for spearheading the rebuilding of the country’s health care system.
“It is a critical activity – one that we are fully supportive of even with our new $30 million health service strengthening project. We look forward to continuing to partner with the Ministry of Health as we move towards making The Gambia a place where you can have superior health care,” she said. She urged Gambians to “come out and get vaccinated”.