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KUWAIT CITY, Feb 22: As part of its keenness to develop a system for recycling and safe disposal of waste, informed sources said, “The Environment Public Authority, with the cooperation of the Ministry of Health, is currently working on discussing the best ways to receive medical waste and medicines generated from healthcare institutions affiliated with the private sector, as well as discuss updates of the project to establish, supply, operate, manage and maintain a medical waste treatment unit, and the ministry’s strategy for the disposal and treatment of medical waste resulting from health care facilities in the public and private sectors”, reports Al-Rai daily.
Regarding this matter, environmental researcher Esraa Buhamad, whose master’s thesis was on the subject of medical waste, said, “Medical waste in Kuwait is disposed off in two ways – sterilization of the materials to be reused, or incineration. The rate of gas emission that the incinerators generate are within the limits permitted by the Environment Public Authority. The increase in the amount of waste expected, in light of the increase in the population, the need for expansions in Kuwait’s hospitals to increase their capacity, and the possibility of an increase in the emission rate in the future should be taken into account.
The results of a study conducted in this regard showed a low level of knowledge about this matter among the cleaners and administrators. On the other hand, the nursing staff had a high level of knowledge of how to handle this waste. The study showed the weakness of training programs in the medical sector, as 60 percent of the cleaners were not provided with necessary training, and 70 percent of them were exposed to diseases that they did not report.
Field visits showed lack of proper disposal of medical waste. The final disposal of medical waste is carried out through three institutions, namely the Ministry of Health, the Environment Public Authority and the Public Authority for Industry. It passes through two stages – incineration, and burial in landfills.
The ashes resulting from incineration of medical waste, which is classified as solid waste, are highly dangerous. It is collected manually, transported to landfills, and backfilled at the site of the hazardous waste cells. The amount of this ash produced in one year is approximately 78,030 kilograms. The amount of waste produced by one bed in kilograms per day in Kuwait ranges from 3.87 to 7.44, which is relatively high compared to other countries. The reason is that Kuwait provides relatively good medical care, as materials are used and disposed of, which means that the sterilization rate is relatively high”.
Meanwhile, the former dean of the College of Health Sciences Dr. Faisal Al-Sharifiaffirmed the lack of training for workers who deal with medical waste. He said, “The safe transportation of waste requires the need for intensifying training courses for workers – both cleaners and medical staff – in order to protect them from diseases. The recycling process may be appropriate, but it is expensive, and this requires us to focus on raising the efficiency of incinerators and ensuring their quality”.
Also, environmental researcher Esraa Buhamad revealed that the study concluded on the need to take some measures, the most prominent of which are six aspects, namely – continuous maintenance of incinerators, raising the awareness of workers in the health sector, reducing the amount of medical waste, providing an integrated management system for waste management, introducing waste shredding technology and incinerators, and introducing the scanner mechanism in the waste weighing process. It is worth mentioning that the Ministry of Health manages a number of health incinerators that are operated continuously, the largest of which is the central incinerator in Shuaiba area of Mina Abdullah.
It is the latest incinerator installed and operated by the ministry to burn medical waste. It is Danish-made, has a capacity of 500 kg per hour, and can burn contaminated liquids. Shuaiba incinerator is operated by computer, and contains a monitoring system for the operations to measure the gases and materials emitted from the combustion. The burning temperature in the main room is between 800 and 1,000 degrees Celsius, and the burning temperature in the secondary room is 1,200 degrees Celsius.