Stinking medical waste stacked in open shed

Kamva Mokoena

Kamva Mokoena

Dozens of plastic disposal bags containing medical waste lie stacked in an open shed behind the mortuary of the Usher Memorial Hospital in Kokstad, southern KwaZulu-Natal.

The waste includes post-operative human tissue remains, severed limbs, afterbirths and other pathological specimens.

The bags have allegedly been there for three weeks. Maggots and blue flies feast on the bloated bags. The stench is overwhelming.

The site is close to the playing field of Kokstad College, where children normally gather to eat their lunches.

Sowetan has been reliably informed that the waste is normally kept refrigerated until it is collected at least once a week by a contractor for incineration in Pietermaritzburg.

The current contractor is alleged to have given up collecting the waste because of nonpayment.

Local residents are up in arms. They claim the terrible stench is a health hazard and the fact that this is happening next to a mortuary "is unacceptable".

"It smells bad and is a terrible sight," said a local resident who refused to be named.

Hospital PRO Sabelo Ncwane refused to comment, saying there was a blanket ban on any member of the hospital speaking to the media.

This comes after the hospital made headlines a few weeks ago over "phantom" employees on the hospital's payroll.

Health Department spokesman Leon Mbangwa said the bags "contained medical waste and not human remains".

He said the government respects the people and believes that human remains should "be buried".

"There is a strict policy that regulates the disposal of human remains," he said. "The reason for the noncollection of the waste is that the hospital experienced problems paying the company that disposes of its medical waste.

"The department is sorting the problem out."

He claims the hospital is doing everything possible to avoid any possible health hazard to the public.

Mbangwa said the department would try to prevent the situation from having a negative effect on staff and members of the public visiting the hospital.