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Medical waste crisis in Tuyên Quang Province

Update: November, 30/2016 - 09:00
Low-chimney medical waste incinerator at Tuyên Quang General Hospital. - Photo phapluatplus.vn
Viet Nam News

TUYÊN QUANG - Medical waste is threatening the northern province of Tuyên Quang due to difficulties in treating the hazardous material at local healthcare facilities, said Deputy Director of the provincial Health Department, Đỗ Thị Ngọc Mai.

She estimated that some 500kg of medical waste were discharged daily in the province, but outdated technology and degradation of incinerators made it hard to dispose of them safely. Shortage of staff and skills in waste disposal also contributed to the problem, Mai said on Monday.

She noted that construction of solid waste treatment facilities required huge investment, but the provincial budget was limited and there were no funds for repair, testing and environmental impact assessments.

Tuyên Quang Province is just one example of the countrywide challenges posed by polluting waste. A recent report by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said an estimated 47 tonnes of hazardous waste and 125,000cu.m of medical wastewater were discharged from industrial zones, production establishments, businesses and craft villages, as well as medical units, into the environment each day

In Hàm Yên General Hospital, about 60kg of medical waste are released each day. The hospital collects and classifies medical waste as regulated. But the burning process releases toxic gas due to its outdated technology, which is harmful to health and the environment, according to Bùi Thị Minh Hương, a hospital official.

The hospital had to enter into contract with some enterprises to transport and treat medical waste, a process difficult to supervise.

Each day, more than 100kg of hazardous waste discharged from the Tuyên Quang General Hospital was treated but the old waste treatment system was often broken, particularly in the rainy season, hospital director Phạm Quang Thanh said. The old burning technology affected the lives of nearby residents, Thanh added.

Things would improve next year when a new waste treatment system funded by the World Bank is put into use, he said.

The treatment of medical waste water in Tuyên Quang also faces major challenges due to deteriorated facilities. Five out of 14 hospitals across the province do not have waste water treatment systems, according to the health department.

Most of them have to use old facilities that do not meet environmental standards.

The solid medical waste of some hospitals is collected and treated at other hospitals, but each facility has to deal with its own waste water.

Hoàng Thanh Cảnh, director of the General Hospital in Yên Sơn District said the waste water discharged daily was not dealt with thoroughly and affected groundwater resources and the lives of people in the region.

He admitted that the current quality of waste water after treatment did not meet the ministry’s standard, but added that things would imrpove once the hospital is relocated and rebuilt.

The department urged hospitals to strictly implement regulations on waste treatment to limit environmental pollution. It also asked the ministry to fund new incinerators for hospitals and hold training courses for health staff in waste treatment management. - VNS

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