It must be appalling for citizens to see images of hundreds of bags of rotting biohazard waste lying on the compound of the San Fernando General Hospital. These have reportedly been there for days, if not weeks, posing significant health risks to staff and members of the public alike.
In articles yesterday in both the Express and Guardian newspapers, the South West Regional Heath Authority (SWRHA) admitted to the problem, and was quoted as saying that the “situation is under control”. That is one of the most flippant remarks that could ever be made by a public health authority tasked with providing quality healthcare to citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
What makes that remark so atrocious as well is the fact that this waste has been there for many, many days with no serious efforts made to properly dispose of same. The situation is not under control. This situation should not have arisen in the first place.
The SWRHA, by allowing this serious situation to materialize, has effectively placed its staff and members of the public in a serious health risk environment. To say, according to the article in the Trinidad Guardian, that “the transient accumulation of waste that occurred due to some transitional staffing issues is currently receiving the attention of the Human Resources Department,” seems disingenuous and makes light of a very serious situation. The SWRHA was also quoted as saying that it had decommissioned the furnace on August 15th.
However, a Trinidad Guardian report dated 2014 (article attached) noted that the SWRHA had commissioned a new 9 million dollar state of the art incinerator at the San Fernando General Hospital a few days before. The report further went on to say that this M1000 Medical Waste incinerator had a daily destruction capacity of 2.5 tonnes daily and was environmentally friendly in line with international standards. This new, modern incinerator, installed in 2014, to replace the existing one (which was some 30 years old at the time) was especially effective in the destruction of biohazardous waste, a common challenge in the health sector.
I ask whether this is the “furnace“ that was recently decommissioned? And, is it true that this state-of-the-art incinerator was allowed to fall into disrepair because of a lack of maintenance and a failure to purchase parts by the SWRHA over the past few years? If this is indeed the case, it speaks of poor management, negligence and incompetence by the current SWRHA board and executive management team.
The Minister of Health needs to investigate this matter and provide a rapid solution to this messy situation. He also needs to explain why the autoclave gifted to the Government, and intended to replace this neglected incinerator has taken over a year to be commissioned. The SWRHA’s explanation for this serious lapse in responsibility as “transitional staffing issues” is a pathetic deflection from the real issue.
The Ministry of Health, as the oversight body for the RHAs has failed healthcare staff, and members of the public by allowing a potentially hazardous situation to develop on the compound of a major hospital in our nation. It is another example of incompetence and mismanagement in the health sector.