A look into waste management at the hospitals in Kuwait, with United Waste Management Company Chairman Saleh Al-Ghunaim explaining to Swaliha Shanavas how important proper waste management is for infection prevention.
Waste management is one of the major challenges that fast-developing economies in the Middle East face, and various governments have been looking at appropriate measures to deal with this issue in a suitable manner. Each nation has its short- and long-term plans or is in the process of drawing up a road map with regard to waste management in different sectors such as commercial, residential, healthcare and so on. While some countries are in the forefront of best practices in this area, others are waking up to the fact that waste management is a segment that cannot be overlooked and if ignored, would have serious implications in the long run.
“In the field of waste management, Kuwait’s current position, unfortunately, is at the bottom of the table,” says Saleh Al-Ghunaim, Chairman, United Waste Management Company (UWMC). “This is due to the lack of proper legislation and enforcement; lack of coordination between the entities (e.g., waste water treatment by the Ministry of Public Works, solid waste by the Municipality, medical waste by the Ministry of Health, hazardous waste by the Ministry of Industries, etc.).”
However, there are some new developments lately, he states. The Government has introduced new laws to regulate waste management and Kuwait Municipality has entered into a technical partnership with PTB for a Waste-to-Energy project that would help divert about 330 tons daily from the landfill to produce electricity and other waste water treatment projects, explains Al-Ghunaim. “The Government has entrusted Kuwait Environment Protection Authority, under the leadership of its General Manager Sheikh Abdullah Ahmad Al-Hamoud Al-Sabah, to formulate a law to protect the environment to maintain the sustainable use of resources. All this has led to the demand for a specialised waste management Act.”
UWMC is tackling this issue to satisfy the demand in the market for high quality products and services by transferring its expertise and experience in this field to their clients, he remarks. “We believe that United Waste Management is not simply a waste collection company, but one that looks for integrated waste management, employing several waste control and disposal methods like recycling, incineration, re-use, land filling, etc.”
With the introduction of the new law, Al-Ghunaim says there will be many opportunities and “hopefully the government bureaucracy and law enforcement will ease things up”. He also emphasises the need for a Ministry of Environment to plan, promote, coordinate and oversee the implementation of environmental programmes.
Advanced underground waste collection system for new Jahra Hospital Diwan Al Amiri Project – “First hospital in the Middle East to introduce this system”
The UWMC has partnered with Envac Systems to deliver bespoke vacuum system for various sectors. They recently won the Al Jahra Hospital Diwan Al Amiri project. The Government of Kuwait, as part of its development programme, is building over 8 super speciality hospitals across the country and all the hospitals are to be equipped with Automated Waste Systems for collection of waste in two fractions (organic/residual and recyclable) in addition to a dedicated linen collection system which is delivered directly to the laundry, the Chairman highlights.
Envac has commenced design for the Diwan Al Amiri project and will be completing this project by Q1 2018. The hospital has 7 chute locations spread across the four towers and three locations in the podium and hot floors, says Al-Ghunaim also proudly declaring that “it is the first hospital in Kuwait and in the Middle East to introduce this system.”
“In 2013, we partnered with Envac – the leader in automated waste collection system, and together we started creating and promoting the concept. In the beginning people did not accept the idea because of the existing waste collection services by the Municipality, although our system is sustainable and helps reduce carbon footprint. We introduced the technology to the Ministry of Health and their consultants, which they appreciated, and now Kuwait is installing that system at all its hospitals,” he remarks.
Hospital waste management is one of the critical areas that need great attention as it involves human and environmental safety. Refuse rooms and laundry rooms at hospitals are high risk zones which require great care and maintenance. Huge quantities of hazardous waste, contaminated waste and dirty laundry are handled in hospitals, with these items being stored and transported manually through various sections of the hospital. This activity, besides posing health risks for patients and staff, also takes up a lot of time and resources. “In the hospital environment, vacuum systems save space and improve hygienic conditions considerably,” states Al-Ghunaim.
With the Envac vacuum system, waste and laundry are transported in separate, closed pipe systems from every department to a terminal which is located on the periphery of the site. While the system helps simplify the logistics, the inlets are positioned optimally so as to keep manual handling to a minimum, which results in a quiet, hygienic, eco-friendly environment for staff and patients, says Al-Ghunaim. “Moreover, this system will help reduce the traffic and waste, number of skips outside hospitals, and cross-contamination in the hospital premises,” he highlights.