All healthcare facilities – whether a small private practice or a large government hospital - must comply with the guidelines set out in The National Health Act 2003 (Act No 61 of 2003): Regulations relating to health care waste management in health establishments.
These regulations require that medical waste (also called healthcare risk waste in the legislation) generated in your practice is handled in a certain manner, in order to limit the potential risk to both people and the environment. You can read more about the different categories of healthcare risk waste here.
Our legislation designates the facility at which the waste is produced as the “waste generator”* The waste generator is ultimately responsible for the waste from "cradle to grave". This means that it is a legal requirement for the waste generator to know where and how their waste is disposed of.
The legislation doesn't expect hospitals and doctors to dispose of their medical waste themselves - that would be unrealistic - but to ensure that there is someone on site (a waste management officer) who is responsible for the day to day operation and monitoring of the waste plan and that this plan includes the responsible disposal of healthcare risk waste by a waste management contractor.
No matter how long you’ve been in practice, it’s always good to stop, take stock, and possibly review protocols that have become commonplace in your clinic or practice. You do this to ensure that your duty of care to both your colleagues and patients is met and that you are meeting legislative requirements.
So when was the last time you reviewed your medical waste management plan, and the service provided by your medical waste management contractor? Perhaps you don't have a plan in place and are looking to appoint a medical waste contractor. Either way, these are the 4 most important questions we think you should be asking your waste management contractor:
1.Are they registered as an infectious waste carrier?
This is the first and most important question to ask your potential service provider. They must be registered as an infectious waste carrier, and all vehicles transporting hazardous waste must comply with various SANS codes (decalling on the vehicle, spill kits inside the vehicle to name just a few requirements).
In exactly the same way that sanitary waste from commercial sites must be collected by a certified waste carrier who is able to provide you with a certificate of disposal to assure you that waste is being disposed of according to legislation, so must medical waste be collected by a certified infectious waste carrier.
2.Can they provide the relevant waste tracking documents?
Waste tracking documents are a legal requirement to prove that your medical waste is being disposed of at a registered and licenced waste disposal facility, and not just being dumped, untreated, at a landfill site. Waste tracking documents are required in order to meet the "cradle to grave" duty of care that legislation places on waste generators.
3.Do the medical waste containers they provide meet the legislated colour coding and durability requirements?
Medical waste containers should not only meet your requirements but also the standards laid out in the SANS 1024 code for the colour coding of health care risk waste in line with internationally accepted categories.
The colour coding system (red for infectious waste, yellow for sharps and green for pharmaceutical) is used so that the different categories of medical waste may be easily identified and disposed of according to government regulations.
In addition, sharps containers (for example) must be made of rigid, puncture-proof plastic with a self-sealing lid, and be clearly marked with a biohazard symbol and the words “Danger - Gevaar - Ingozi”. You can download our guide to colour coding medical waste here.
4.Are they providing a service that is tailor-made to your needs?
Depending on how much - or how little - healthcare risk waste your practice produces, you may require more, or less, frequent collection. Your healthcare waste management provider should be able to tailor-make a collection schedule that suits your specific requirements.
Initial believes in making compliance with legislation as easy as possible so you can focus on what you do best – delivering exceptional healthcare to your patients. Throughout South Africa, healthcare facilities place their trust in us to provide an efficient and reliable medical waste management service. Initial is a registered infectious waste carrier, and can provide all the relevant waste tracking documentation to put your mind at ease.
Looking for further help disposing of medical waste? Download our Waste Disposal Posters, to ensure that waste is being disposed of correctly.
*Waste Generators: Any person whose actions, production processes or activities, results in waste.