PILES of plastic bags containing rotting human body parts from Cecilia Makiwane Hospital’s operating theatres have been piling up in plain sight for over a month.
The bags have been left out in the open in hot weather and are causing an unbearable stench for those in close proximity. Experts have warned of possible severe public health consequences.
The red plastic bags contain everything from amputated limbs to cancerous tumours and other body parts removed in operations, and are stacked high near the hospital’s boundary fence because a locked container for such waste is full.
The waste, normally collected by a waste management company every third or fourth day, has not been collected since the end of January because the company has not been paid. Yesterday Department of Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo admitted that the company, Campus Waste, was owed money by the Department, and blamed “minor glitches” for the delay.
“We gave them R100 000 two weeks ago and the balance will be paid out soon,” he said. Staff working near the pile said the smell had become unbearable. “Our complaints have gone unattended, and we are forced to move to the parking lot further up to have our meals,” they said.
Former Health MEC Dr Trudy Thomas described the stacking of human body parts out in the open as “an outrage to human dignity”.
“This would be irresponsible and the most disrespectful way to deal with human beings.” If there were no funds to pay the company, she said, other ways to dispose of the waste, like incineration, should have been found.
“With the hot weather conditions decomposition takes place very fast and you cannot leave bits of rotting meat lying around,” she said, adding that the very thought of human medical waste being treated in such a manner was horrifying.
Thomas warned that infectious diseases could spread if dogs managed to forage in the waste.
“The very least they could have done was to put a guard, or a sign, warning people,” she said.