The Ministry of Health represented by the Directorate General of Diseases Control and Surveillance has developed management policies for highly hazardous medical and infectious waste based on approved international policies.
The ministry is pursuing best practices to manage healthcare waste by developing plans and policies, as well as unifying all efforts to preserve the safety of everyone from risk of exposure to COVID-19, through training and raising awareness among health workers.
Since waste management is an important aspect of health management in a society, the sultanate, like other countries, is dealing safely with healthcare wastes of COVID-19 patients in home or institutional isolation centres as well as in health institutions.
Salwa Salim al Mashari, supervisor, Medical Waste Programme, Environmental and Occupational Health, Directorate General of Disease Surveillance and Control, pointed out that the number of infected persons in institutional isolation facilities and hospitals is expected to increase, therefore, there will be an increase in the medical waste resulting from serving them in the examination centers, medical labs, referral hospitals, primary health centres, institutional isolation facilities and others.
Salwa added that waste from health institutions is divided into non-hazardous and hazardous wastes. These are further divided into number of categories depending on the degree of risk – such as infectious, chemical, severe, radioactive, domestic waste and so on.
Regarding the waste from COVID-19 patients, she clarified that the ministry is pursuing best practices to manage healthcare waste by developing plans and policies, as well as unifying all efforts to preserve the safety of everyone from risk of exposure through training and raising awareness among health workers.
Furthermore, Salwa stressed on dealing with domestic waste with caution and using the required personal protective equipment such as face mask and gloves. “The domestic waste must be placed in double bags tightly to be taken to the nearest municipal waste assembly while emphasising the need for removing the used personal protective equipment cautiously and washing hands thoroughly with water and soap to sanitise them.”
Highly hazardous medical waste is generated from the provision of institutional isolation services in the 61 centers affiliated with the ministry, she said. The institutional isolation waste is collected in black bags that are 70 micron thick, it is then tied and placed in another bag with the same specifications as a precautionary measure to protect the persons dealing with it.
Later, they are moved to the waste collection point of the isolation centre in which Oman Environmental Services Holding Company – be’ah – provides special closed vehicles that move according to an agreed schedule for transporting the waste to medical waste treatment stations. Salwa also stressed on the importance of using the necessary personal protective equipment when dealing with this type of waste.
As for the public and private establishments’ waste from COVID-19 patients, they are treated as’highly hazardous medical and infectious waste’. “The ministry, represented by the Directorate General of Diseases Control and Surveillance, has developed management policies for this particular type of waste based on the approved international and gulf policies. Waste is laid in sealed, thick, yellow bags and then put into another bag of the same colour, to be transported in special vehicles to the institution’s collection zone and transported to the medical waste plants.”
Regarding the management of wastewater generated by the health institutions that provide treatment for COVID-19 patients, Salwa explained that there is no tangible evidence that the virus may be transmitted through the sewage system. However, best practices for protecting the health of wastewater workers must be ensured by using the specified personal protective equipment. She stressed the importance of avoiding touching face, along with washing hands with soap and water, as well as maintaining social distancing when performing duty.
Meanwhile, Jassim Mohammed al Wohaibi, head of the healthcare waste department in be’ah, stated, that immediately after the World Health Organization announced the spread of the novel coronavirus, be’ah, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, circulated to all health institutions in the sultanate the importance of following guidelines for separating waste that will be produced from confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 from the rest of the healthcare waste, in order to ensure safe management and disposal at the company’s healthcare waste treatment facilities in accordance with the latest international standards recommended by WHO.
Furthermore, the company has attached great importance in taking all the precautionary procedures to ensure health and safety of personnel working in the field of healthcare waste, in addition to ensuring full compliance of the employees at the companies that are operating treatment utilities with safety procedures used to deal with this type of contaminated waste to preserve public health and avoid the risks of spreading infectious diseases.
By the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by WHO and confirmation of cases with the virus in the sultanate, the company, in agreement with the MoH, had activated its emergency plan, operating around the clock. The company provides collection, transportation, and treatment service of waste generated by more than 61 institutional quarantine facilities in different governorates, along with all public and private health institutions benefiting from the service. In addition, the frequency of healthcare waste collection from health institutions has been increased to be transported and treated immediately, either by incineration or autoclave devices.
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