Officials raid doctor’s surgery
THE DISCOVERY of medical waste – including used syringes, HIV tests, cotton swabs and bandages – on vacant land in Isipingo has landed a local doctor and his staff in hot water.
Officials from the eThekwini Municipality’s environmental health department went to his surgery on Monday, demanding answers. They are contemplating fining him.
Municipal cleaners spotted the medical waste on Friday and notified the city’s health department. The doctor, whose identity is known to POST, was present during the raid and appeared flabbergasted when officials questioned him.
Confused patients looked on as the doctor told them that two of his bins were recently stolen and he assumed the thieves had thrown the contents on the vacant plot.
“Things are always going missing. I can’t even begin to tell you how much of my stuff has been taken – my bins, my compost waste boxes and even my welcome carpet with my name on it has been taken from the reception area,” he said.
During the inspection, officials also found used medical waste stored in an area at the entrance of his surgery. In terms of the Medical Health Care Act, medical waste must be stored in a designated area and cannot be left where it can be exposed to anyone. It must be locked at all times.
The person allowed in the area must wear protective clothing, including a mask and gloves. The doctor, who said his nurses were unaware of the proper procedure to follow, told officials he would now ensure strict protocol was followed.
“I haven’t followed up on my staff. I am busy with patients all the time, but I have been alerted to something that has gone seriously wrong. Clearly there has been an internal failure,” he said.
The officials also requested to see the contract between the GP and the company that disposes of his waste.
The service provider was contacted and confirmed it had recently picked up eight boxes of medical waste, while two were left behind.
The doctor cannot explain why two boxes were left behind.
He has also been requested to store waste in the proper waste baskets to avoid contamination of the material.
Peter Roberts, who led Monday’s raid, told POST the city was sending a strong message to other medical practitioners.
“There is something called a scheduled trade permit. In the permit, medical practitioners are urged to store their waste separately in special colour-coded boxes and to keep the medical waste locked away.
“He (the doctor) has not complied with the locking away of this material. And we are now clamping down on others who are not complying. We will issue fines or remove permits if they are not running up to standard,” Roberts said.
A POST team also saw empty medicine bottles and empty blister packs, all bearing the name of the doctor, on the vacant land near his surgery.
The doctor told POST he had been “educated” on the storing of medical waste and was now complying.
“There is strict protocol here, but somewhere a staff member has failed to comply… but I have been notified and I am working on explaining to them (staff) how to properly dispose of this. It was a minor thing and we are 99.99999% on track,” the doctor said.
Unsafe management of hazardous health care waste, particularly its disposal, may increase the risk of needle stick injuries, transmission of infectious agents and expose unsuspecting parties to preventable risks.
Meanwhile, raids continued in Isipingo yesterday.
Officials from several city departments were out in full force also, looking for illegal traders.
A company manufacturing dog kennels was issued with a notice for structural failure as well as a R5 000 fine from Metro Police for illegal dumping.
Said City Manager Sipho Nzuza: “We need to show these illegal traders that we are here and not leaving. We have a bigger plan for this area and we can only execute it when these traders get legal or stop.
“I am very happy about the operations that are carried out here and it shows we can bring Isipingo back to what it was.”
The head of the city’s development, planning, management and environment department, Musa Mbhele, issued a stern warning to medical practitioners and illegal traders.
“We are coming for them. If they do not comply, we will close their businesses down. This doctor that was caught on Monday will be brought to the law, but we are also going after the others who are doing this.
“We are going after those illegally offloading things, illegal traders and those who are making illegal taxi ranks,” he said.
“We will descend on them like a ton of bricks.”
Medical waste found on vacant land near a doctor’s Isipingo surgery.