Milliam Murigi @millymur1
A recent visit to a local hospital left me wondering how safe our health workers are. As doctors and nurses moved from one bed to another, giving tablets and injections, one of them pricked herself twice while trying to recap a used needle before disposing of it.
She had to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), an antiretroviral treatment administered for 28 days to reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV after exposure.
Needle accidents arise frequently when doctors and nurses try to recap needles after use. These accidents, apart from forcing medics to take PEP, which has serious side effects, also exposes them to numerous infections.
PEP medication can, among other side effects, according to NHS UK, cause diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. A 2014 World Health Organisation study shows that in 2010, 1.7 million people were infected with hepatitis B, another 315,000 with hepatitis C and as many as 33,800 with HIV through needle pricks.
Another study by Kenyatta National Hospital revealed that around 30 per cent of all health workers have reported pricking themselves.
It is these numbers that led to the introduction of Hs-045 needle smelters in the local market. This is a new South Korean technology that melts needles at approximately 1,600 degrees Celsius into a powder which is safe and easy to dispose of.
“This new and affordable technology will protect medics and the general public from needle prick injuries. If adopted the technology will be the most effective method of protecting health workers from secondary infections,” said Jimmy Kuria from La Miguela Holdings, the company selling the product in Kenya.
Developed by Neo Top Co Ltd, the technology can be easily installed and used anywhere. It also protects the environment from biohazards.
Currently, there is poor disposal of medical waste with only a few hospitals having incinerators and the rest of the waste ending up in landfills. “The needle smelter is the safest and fastest way to destroy used needles,” says Jimmy.
He says that the machine consumes only one Kilowatt of electricity to process about 5,000 needles. On a full battery, one can destroy 300 needles of between 15 and 31 gauges at a rate of 100 needles a minute.
“We have two types of needle smelters, a stationary one and the portable one. But currently, we stock the stationary one which goes for Sh55,000. The portable model will hit our shelves very soon,” he says.
According to Doctor Wala Amakove, everyday nurses and other healthcare workers face dangerous and potentially life-threatening infections as a result of sharps injuries. By far the most common and significant of these injuries are from used needles.