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Waste management a priority for health authorities

Staying on top of waste management challenges continues to be a priority for health authorities as the region combats the spread of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The Apia-based Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme [S.P.R.E.P.] was recently invited by the World Health Organisation [W.H.O.] to join a webinar that focused on medical waste during the current pandemic.

According to a media statement issued by S.P.R.E.P., representatives of the European Union-Pacific Waste Management Programme [PacWastePlus] also joined the virtual discussions, which was organised by the Pacific Community [S.P.C.] Infection Prevention and Control Cell of the COVID-19 Joint Incident Management Team for the Pacific in partnership with S.P.R.E.P.

The webinar participants were reminded that any waste that had come into contact with a facility housing a COVID-19 patient or a person who has been exposed to the coronavirus, should be treated as medical waste.

The participants were mostly infection control focal point officers in ministries and departments of health from various Pacific island states. Environmental health officers and representatives of other relevant agencies, who are also involved with healthcare waste management, were part of the discussions.

The PacWastePlus programme team – who were led by the Programme Manager Bradley Nolan and Technical Waste Project Officer [Hazardous Waste] Lance Richman – provided an overview of the existing programme and strategies on healthcare waste management in Pacific island countries as well as Timor-Leste. 

Other panelists, which included Dr. Nasir Hassan from the W.H.O., did a presentation on the essential elements of healthcare waste management in the context of COVID-19 with Margaret Leong, the S.P.C. Infection Prevention and Control Advisor.

The PacWastePlus team also spoke on an immediate response to Pacific island country needs, and how the programme produced a useful medical waste alert on how to manage COVID-19 healthcare waste to assist with the effective management during the current pandemic. 

They said it was an easy-to-read practical guide for the Pacific setting with additional links to more resources.

The webinar participants were also informed that the PacWastePlus and partner programmes continue to work with health ministries and hospitals in the region on long-term sustainable solutions for healthcare waste management.

The PacWastePlus programme is a 64-month project funded by the E.U. and is implemented by S.P.R.E.P. across 14 Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste which is now in its implementation phase.

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