Needles, bloodied bandages and body parts

Rotting bits of human body parts, dripping with blood and infested with
flies …

The stench is unbearable.

This is the scene that greets you at Phambili Wasteman in Springfield,
south of Joburg.

There are hundreds of barrels, some dumped in the sun and some in a
large warehouse.

Barrels with used needles lie uncovered, there are bags with bloodied
bandages, and plastic containers with body parts.

Both in the warehouse and the outdoor area, there is evidence of fresh
and dried blood on the floor.

All is covered by humming flies.

Some truck drivers and workers have told The Star they can no longer
work under such conditions where human parts, syringes and old bandages
lie around for two weeks before being incinerated.

According to the law, anatomical waste has to be refrigerated and
incinerated within 24 hours, or 90 days if stored at minus 2ºC; and
infectious waste has to be burnt within 72 hours; needles, scalpels and
blades within 30 days; and pharmaceuticals within 30 days.

Staffer Marcus Ross said the conditions were so bad, and the smell of
rotting human bodies so potent, it had "penetrated my skin and my body".

"I go home at night and smell so bad that my wife makes me sleep in
another room. It is not right that human body parts are treated in this

Ross said they were not issued with proper safety equipment such as
gloves, and "our people have been pricked many times, putting us at risk
of Aids".

Because the company was experiencing problems with its incinerator in
Klerksdorp, the human tissue and other medical waste were only taken
there every two weeks.

On its website, Phambili Wasteman Group says it was founded in 1980 and
is a South African company "partly owned through an international
structure by Suez Environment".

It claims to be "the largest contractor to Gauteng provincial hospitals
for the management of healthcare risk waste (also known as medical
waste)" and to be "strictly guided by SABS code 0248 and other
international codes of practice".

Gauteng's chief operations director, Patrick Maduna, said he did not
know why private operators were collecting human tissue, as all
hospitals had their own incinerators for human tissue.

David Borole, the province's deputy director of waste management, said
he had "an axe to grind with Phambili as they were not delivering a good
service anymore".

Text and cellphone messages left for Phambili director Vincent Charnley
had not been replied to by late on Sunday.

* *This article was originally published on page 2 of **The Star*
<http://www.thestar.co.za/>* on February 23, 2009 *


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