Hospitals Required to Manage Own Waste

June 10, 2005

MORE than two years after PresidentAbel Pacheco issued a decree ordering theproper treatment and disposal of hospitalwaste, the Social Security System (Caja)is taking steps to put the country’s publichospitals in compliance.Public hospitals and clinics will beoutfitted with equipment to treat their ownwaste, following a decision by a Cajamanagers’ council, the daily La Repúblicareported.The decision came after the councilrejected a long-discussed plan to contracta private company to manage the collection,treatment and disposal of all thecountry’s hospital waste.An in-depth investigation by The TicoTimes two years ago revealed that untreatedhospital waste – including syringes,vials, fecal matter and infectious andanatomic waste – is regularly discarded inlandfills (TT, Nov. 7, 2003). Landfill managersconfirmed to The Tico Times thathospitals were not complying with treatmentrules.Furthermore, hazardous waste andhazardous waste containers have beenfound on streets, in rivers and in the handsof regular citizens.Only 23% of state clinics and hospitalsproperly treat their waste beforemunicipalities collect it for disposal inlandfills, La República reported. Publichospitals and clinics in Costa Rica produceabout 44 metric tons of garbage aweek.The Caja will begin a process of outfittingthe country’s 29 hospitals andmajor clinics with sterilizing machinescalled autoclaves and personal training totreat waste. Officials are in the process ofstudying how much the investment willcost before soliciting bids for a privateprovider.Xinia Caravajal, responsible for theCaja’s hospital-waste program, told LaRepública the cost will likely be similar tothe original plan of contracting a privatecompany for treatment – $1.5 millionannually.That plan was discarded because theCaja never did a technical and financialfeasibility study and because it did notcomply with World Health Organizationstandards for hospital waste treatment.One such standard is that waste shouldbe treated as near to its source as possible.Under the one-business management plan,waste from Liberia, capital of the northwesternprovince of Guanacaste, wouldhave been treated in San José.

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