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Minister of Information, Senator Burchell Whiteman has disclosed that Cabinet has given its approval for the implementation of a regional medical waste collection and treatment system.
Addressing journalists at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House yesterday (March 6), Minister Whiteman said the waste treatment and collection system is expected to cost some $400 million, and would be implemented in two phases, starting in the upcoming 2006/2007 financial year, when $114.6 million would be spent in the first phase.
He pointed out that the project was necessary in light of the fact that Jamaica’s current methods of waste disposal – incineration and burial – were not in conformity with international standards, “so we are looking at an improved system and stronger regulation and more defined processes”.
Explaining how the new waste treatment system would function, the Minister said the system, known as autoclave technology, would utilise “wet heat and direct heated steam and high pressure to achieve complete sterilisation of infectious materials”.
The autoclave technology, he noted, was reputed to achieve 100 per cent of microbial inactivation, “which means that it destroys the microbes which would be harmful to life in medical waste”.
“It is something which we need to do,” the Minister stressed, adding that “in terms of our various protocols and arrangements with international organisations and in protection of our own people, we are called upon to take this much more seriously now than ever before”.
Estimates project that Jamaica generates approximately 1,600 tonnes of medical waste yearly. Of this amount, 80 per cent is labelled as not being particularly harmful, while the other 20 per cent is believed to be potentially dangerous.
Minister Whiteman explained that because public institutions are responsible for 83 per cent of all medical waste in the country, “it is considered important that the government institute a system to ensure that waste is properly disposed of, because the negative effects of not doing so are really, in both human and economic terms, quite frightening to contemplate”.
He told journalists that the medical waste treatment and collection system would apply to all health facilities, whether they were private or public. He further noted that attendant standards and a code of operation would inevitably be mandated for all health facilities.
“It is not just simply a matter of developing the thing and say it is there for who wants to use it. All private health facilities will be required to operate in a certain way, and any legislation that will be necessary as well, will be done,” he added.