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European Union and SPREP support healthcare waste management

European Union and SPREP support healthcare waste management to raise regional standards, protect the environment and save lives. In Fiji this month, specialised training in the management and disposal of healthcare waste commenced in four hospital sites across the country, including Lautoka, Suva, Nadi and Labasa.

These tailored training programmes, which commenced on 20 July 2015, are part of a €2 million package of healthcare waste management assistance that will be implemented through PacWaste – the regional Pacific hazardous waste management project delivered through a partnership between the European Union and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

PacWaste is a four year, €7.85 million project to improve hazardous waste management across the Pacific in the priority areas of healthcare waste, E-waste, asbestos and integrated atoll solid waste management.

The healthcare waste component of the project looks at the safe and sustainable management of infectious waste (such as bandages and swabs), chemical waste from medical laboratories, sharps (such as syringes and scalpels) and expired, unused or unwanted pharmaceutical products.

The volume of healthcare waste in the Pacific region is increasing due to population growth and the expansion of healthcare services. People who are exposed to healthcare waste at any point in the disposal and collection process are at risk of injury and other adverse effects. Further down the waste management chain, the improper disposal of healthcare waste can result in the release of toxic substances which can pollute the air, water and soil.

The groundbreaking new healthcare waste management training in Fiji signals the launch of a regional initiative which will see a similar training package delivered across 14 Pacific island countries, and Timor-Leste, over the next 12 months.

Mr Jesús Laviña, Head of Section for Natural Resources and Infrastructure at the European Union Delegation for the Pacific, Suva explains that the need to build the capacity of hospital staff to safely manage and handle healthcare waste had been identified through an earlier phase of the project:

“The urgent need for this training was identified through the completion of a comprehensive baseline study, undertaken by PacWaste, which looked at healthcare waste management practices in 42 hospitals across the Pacific. This baseline study clearly indicated the need to raise awareness of how to safely manage healthcare waste, and reduce the risk of contamination or exposure to harmful chemicals.”

The training targets individuals who, in the course of their employment, are involved in the handling, disposal or management of healthcare waste. These include hospital risk managers, theatre managers, bio-infection control nurses, matrons and sisters, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, radiologists, waste managers and incinerator operators.

SPREP’s PacWaste Project Manager, Mr Stewart Williams, explains that the training programme has been designed to be cost-effective and replicable:

“The instruction is based on a ‘train-the-trainer’ model. This means that the participating hospital staff are equipped with the skills to better manage healthcare waste, as well as being able to provide training to others in the future. Over time, the 72 individuals trained in Fiji over the past few weeks may go on to educate thousands more.”

PacWaste will continue to provide follow up training, equipment and policy support over the four year life of the project (2013-2017) including the provision of 26 new high temperature healthcare waste incinerators.

Participating hospitals and clinics involved in the healthcare waste training included Ba Mission Hospital, Colonial War Memorial Hospital, Korovou Hospital, Labasa Hospital, Lautoka Hospital, Nabouwalu Hospital, Nadi Hospital, Nausori Health Centre, Ra Maternity, Rakiraki Hospital, Savusavu Hospital, Sigatoka Hospital, St. Giles Hospital, Tamavua-Twomey Hospital, Taveuni Hospital and Tavua Hospital.

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