In developing countries including Ghana, healthcare waste management (HCWM) creates a number of environmental and public health challenges. Irrespective of the possible health implications associated with hospital waste, much attention has not been given to its management.
The present paper sought to assess the healthcare waste management practices in the Tamale Central Hospital (in the Northern Region of Ghana) by characterising and measuring the quantities of waste generated and determining the potential hazards posed to residents and hospital staff due to poor waste management practices. Observation of the value chain of healthcare waste management, waste quantification using a weighing scale (Top-pan-spring balance) and semi-structured interviews were used in this study. The study revealed that, with the exception of sharps, there was no segregation of infectious and non-infectious waste. Healthcare waste was not treated before disposal at a landfill site located outside the hospital.
The study showed that daily record of 5.1kg of sharps, 24.46kg of infectious waste and 59.45kg of general waste were generated. The maternity ward produced more general waste (14kg), whereas the surgical theatre generated the highest infectious waste (5.70kg) and sharps (0.8kg) daily. The maternity ward recorded the highest daily waste generation of 17.9kg.
The incinerator in hospital was be observed to be dysfunctional. An improvised method was however used. Total waste generated was not quantified. Inadequate finance and lack of supervision were linked to the problem of poor healthcare waste management in the study area. The study recommends periodic supervision of healthcare waste management in healthcare institutions be conducted. The hospital may also consider constructing its own on-site waste treatment facility, segregate and quantify waste for effective allocation of resources for treating healthcare waste.
Keywords: Healthcare, waste management, sanitation, value chain, environmental management.