ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH IMPLICATIONS OF MANAGEMENT OF MEDICAL WASTES IN SELECTED HOSPITALS IN NIGER STATE, NIGERIA
The generation of medical waste is a global concern that poses potential risks to both the environment and public health if not managed properly. Unfortunately, awareness of its detrimental impact on the environment remains low, especially in developing countries. This study aimed to investigate the environmental and health implications of medical waste management in selected areas of Niger State, Nigeria. A purposive method was used to select public and private hospitals, resulting in ten hospitals participating in the study.
A cross-sectional study design was employed to assess the current practices of medical waste management systems and morbidity among children aged 10 years and below. Data was collected through questionnaires, field participant observations, interviews, and focus group discussions (FGDs). Wastewater samples were obtained from the hospitals during the study period for laboratory testing. Furthermore, a longitudinal study design was utilized to determine the composition and generation rates of hospital waste. Waste collection and weighing were conducted in all departments of the sampled hospitals using a calibrated sensitive weight scale over seven consecutive days. Descriptive statistics such as mean, graphs, standard deviation (SD), frequency, and percentage were used for data analysis.
The majority of hospital staff consisted of nurses/midwives (49.7%), paramedical personnel (33.8%), medical doctors (9.7%), and waste handlers (6.8%). Findings revealed that only syringe and needle wastes were segregated by approximately 72.7% of the respondents. Moreover, 98.1% of the hospitals lacked waste management manuals and plans, and 98.6% of the staff had not received specific training on medical waste management. The most common method of waste transportation was the use of wheelbarrows, while open surface burning was the primary method of treatment and disposal. None of the selected hospitals had wastewater treatment plants, resulting in direct discharge of wastewater into the environment. Analysis of wastewater quality parameters indicated severe pollution.
Risk ratios (RR) for respiratory, intestinal, and skin infections among exposed children were higher than those for unexposed children, indicating a higher prevalence of such diseases among the exposed group. The average generation rates of hazardous medical waste in public hospitals were 0.71 kg/bed/day and 0.92 kg/patient/day, while private hospitals had rates of 0.10 kg/bed/day and 0.13 kg/patient/day. The average rate of total hazardous waste generation for inpatients and outpatients was 0.25 kg/patient/day. The percentage average of hazardous waste components generated in each hospital varied based on the number of patient/bed/days.
In conclusion, the study revealed poor medical waste management practices in the selected hospitals, attributed to the absence of waste management policies and plans, inadequate financial resources, and insufficient awareness and training among medical personnel. Urgent action is required to raise awareness among stakeholders regarding healthcare waste management issues, including segregation, storage, collection, transport, treatment, and disposal, in order to address public health and environmental concerns effectively.
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