Major Hospitals Commit to Reduce Mercury Waste

Denpasar municipal administration has aggressively started its campaign to reduce mercury waste (HG) from the city’s main hospitals in an attempt to properly process the hazardous medical waste.

A.A. Bagus Sudarsana, head of Denpasar Environmental Agency, told Bali Daily on Tuesday that 
the administration had not yet developed an integrated waste processing plant to manage hospital waste.

“So far, we rely on the hospitals to take care their own medical waste. Many of them dump their waste in open garbage sites or incinerate it,” said Sudarsana.

The campaign started with 10 hospitals, including Sanglah General Hospital, Udayana Army Hospital, Bhayangkara Police Hospital, Puri Raharja Hospital, BaliMed Hospital, Indera Hospital, Surya Husada, Bali Royal Hospital, Wangaya and Puri Bunda Hospital, all in Denpasar.

“For the meantime, we will deliver the waste to West Java, which already has a proper medical waste processing plant. We haven’t discussed the technical and financial matters yet,” he added.

Denpasar municipality is currently working in cooperation with Bali Fokus, Health Care Without Harm (Southeast Asia) and the Swedish environmental agency, KEMI, to encourage the city hospitals to apply a sustainable nonmercury and medical waste processing program.

Previously, Denpasar municipality signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bali Fokus and seven hospitals to immediately process their medical waste.

“This is the first initiative from a local administration in Bali to reduce the amount of unprocessed dangerous medical waste,“ explained Paola C., a member of Bali Fokus’ team for the sustainable nonmercury and medical waste processing program. 
Bali Fokus and its counterparts in the program will provide intensive training and guidance on the usage of personal protective equipment and standard procedures for managing mercury waste, things that are usually ignored by local medical personnel here in Bali. 
Hospitals and other medical facilities still use medical equipment containing mercury. 
Exposure to mercury can pose a variety of health problems to humans. Mercury is frequently used during dental treatment. It also exists in a large number of medical tools, such as thermometers and sphygmomanometers.
Ayesa Enrile, program associate for the safer chemicals campaign from Health Care Without Harm (Southeast Asia), shared her experience in dealing with similar issues in her home country in the Philippines.
Enrile said that the government had successfully reduced mercury-based medical equipment in a number of hospitals in the country. 
“We work hand in hand with governments and hospitals. Healthcare facilities have pledged to move for a phase-out of mercury in their facilities,” she explained.
Trisna Wijaya, a member of staff at Bali Royal Hospital’s sanitation department, said that the hospital did yet not possess a medical waste processing plant, such as an incinerator, yet. 
He explained that the waste from the hospital was brought to Sanglah hospital every two days for processing.
He added that medical equipment that contained mercury was properly kept in a special place to avoid any contamination. 
The World Health Organization (WHO), together with Health Care Without Harm, has pledged to reduce the use of thermometers and sphygmomanometers containing mercury by 70 percent from the world’s hospitals. 
According to WHO, in 2008 alone, global health facilities contributed 5 percent of mercury emissions from water waste processing plants and 10 percent of mercury emissions from incinerators. 
Mercury emissions into the environment could cause a serious environmental and health impact on the ecosystem, humans, animals and plants.
In humans, mercury exposure leads to damage to the nervous system, reproductive system and fetus development. Exposure also may cause paralysis and may reduce intelligence levels.

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