A farm road near Empangeni Station has emerged as a popular site for the dumping of body bags, Zululand Observer reports.
Fred Lubbe initially noticed a number of discarded bags near a dense bush and sugar cane not far from his home late last year.
“In December, I found four bags, one in the sugarcane and the others scattered in the bush on the opposite side of the road. On closer inspection I realised they were empty body bags from the mortuary.”
Lubbe was disturbed by his find, but after some time, the bags vanished.
“On Thursday last week, I noticed more dumped body bags at the same spot and at least four more body bags were seen in the bush. The labels indicated that one belonged to Ngwelezana Hospital, while the other, for an infant, belonged to the Lower Umfolozi War Memorial Hospital. As far as I am concerned this is medical waste and has to be incinerated. It is hazardous material which cannot just be dumped anywhere,” Lubbe said.
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Two officials from the department of health (DoH) and an official from the department of environmental affairs were met by Zululand Observer to clarify the issue.
An initial theory that contractors assigned for the removal and disposal of medical waste from the hospitals may be responsible was dismissed by the DoH.
“The DoH has a contract with Compass Waste Medical Services, a reputable company that collects waste from medical facilities across the province and transports it to Durban for disposal,” said spokesperson for the King Cetshwayo District, Sibongiseni Manqele.
Manqele reiterated that the company would not be involved in such illegal activity.
“The DoH distances itself from the illegal dumping of hazardous or contaminated waste owing to the fact that we have a dedicated contractor who deals with the collection and transportation of medical waste to a proper disposal facility. The DoH will investigate the matter together with the department of environmental affairs,” said Manqele.
How medical waste is disposed of
The Citizen managed to speak with the Compass Waste Medical Services sales manager Sam Immelman and said: “Used body bags are placed into the infectious waste stream. Infectious waste consists of discarded ‘soft’ materials arising from activities performed on patients who could potentially transmit infectious agents to people. Infectious waste generated by hospitals, clinics etc. is placed into the infectious waste containment solution, be that a single use box set or a reusable container.
“A permitted company will then collect the sealed container or box set/s and take the healthcare risk waste through to their permitted treatment facility where the infectious waste will be treated, either via autoclave or incineration, and then disposed of into a permitted landfill.”