Still reeling from an autoclave purchasing scandal last fall, Southeast Asia is now desperately in need of units to treat highly infectious medical waste. The 100 million pesos set aside by the Philippine congress would allow hospitals across the country to safely dispose of these hazardous materials. The National Center for Health Facility Development has already selected locations for the sterilizers. Each medical center equipped with an autoclave would be able to serve several hospitals in its vicinity. While transporting the waste from one location to another offers risks of its own, the funds are simply not sufficient to purchase a unit for every clinic. Heavy duty hazmat bags can be used to reduce the risk of punctures and leaking during transport to the sterilization site. After processing, the materials will be inert and perfectly safe to add to the landfill. This method of disposal is replacing incineration in an effort to cut air pollution.

The plan to purchase these new autoclaves is a good one, but it hit a snag in March. Funds appropriated for this project had not been released. Representatives from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) must sign off in order for the money to be made available for use. Hospitals worked in concert with the Health Care without Harm – Southeast Asia organization (HCWH-SEA) to urge the Department of Health to follow up on the delay. It was feared that the 100 million pesos would revert back to the general treasury and be distributed elsewhere.

The DBM released a statement in April assuring the public that the funds will be made available as soon as possible. According to officials, the formal request to release this portion of the 2008 budget was not received until March of 2009. They signed off on the paperwork and sent it up the line for final approval by the Office of the President. As of May 7th, this process has still not been completed. Bureaucratic procedures are apparently the same all over the world. Things take time and the wheels turn very slowly. However, the sterilizer issue has been raised again due to the current outbreak of H1N1 flu. The inability to properly handle medical waste is serious and cannot be resolved without cooperation from the government. Representatives from the HCWH claim that it should be possible to expedite such an obviously necessary expense.

Autoclave Scandal Last Year

Government officials are understandably touchy when it comes to the topic of buying sterilizers. Last fall, a deal to purchase a unit for the Passi District Hospital fell through when several irregularities came to light. What should have been a competitive sealed bid contract turned out to be a deal shot through with corruption. Not only were the parties involved in the bidding process colluding, the equipment that was delivered was so defective it could not even be tested. Rumors spread regarding the possible involvement of the Bids and Awards Committee and the governor’s office.

Hopefully, the current difficulties can be resolved. Healthcare safety standards in the Philippines can be greatly enhanced by the sterilization of medical waste. If your facility needs an autoclave to process hazardous materials, read our free report to find out what options are available.