As part of its pledge to ‘Build Back Better’, the Government of Liberia is to deliver six new autoclaves soon, to ensure that clinical waste is sterilized and disposed of in an eco-friendly manner throughout the country.
The initiative is being managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which is helping to rebuild the country’s fragile health services following the devastating Ebola outbreak.
One of the new autoclaves will be installed at ELWA II, a health facility which released five patients the week of August 10, 2015 who had contracted Ebola and survived. When these people fell ill in July, they were the first Ebola cases Liberia had seen in three months. As soon as the first case was identified, UNDP volunteers dispatched Active Case Finders to the community to contain the spread and ensure that the sick received early treatment.
The new autoclaves, procured by UNDP, are part of a nationwide effort to control infectious diseases by decontaminating all medical waste to ensure safe disposal.
By compacting the waste, the autoclave also cuts down on environmental pollution. Even though Ebola has now been brought under control in Liberia, there are many other infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis that must be tackled.
In the capital Monrovia, the main John F Kennedy hospital, which treated hundreds of Ebola patients, was one of the first to receive an autoclave.
“Prior to the installation of the autoclave, we had waste piling up in large quantities,” explained Prince Stryker, who runs the hospital’s maintenance department. “This buildup of medical material was not only potentially infectious, but it also attracted rats, cockroaches and mosquitoes which are well-known disease carriers”
Sodey Lake is the Nursing Director at the Tappita Regional Referral Hospital in Nimba County, roughly 100 miles from the nation’s capital, where the second autoclave was installed in March.
“Since the Ebola outbreak, everybody who works in the hospital is wearing protective clothing, including gloves and aprons. There are 225 staff in this hospital, which specializes in cancer treatment, and all of their protective clothing must be disposed of daily. This material used to be incinerated in a large pit outside the hospital,” explained Lake, “Now we can be confident that it is decontaminated.”
The autoclave was designed under a UNDP/GEF project and is manufactured by a South African company, Mediclave to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis and other diseases that can be transmitted through infectious wastes.
The initiative, worth USD 4 million, is partially cost-shared by the Government of South Korea.