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SRC to treat hospital waste

Wednesday, June 18, 2014    

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SELECTED health care facilities across the island are to benefit from biodigester septic tanks that have been developed and patented by scientists at the Scientific Research Council (SRC).

Board member of SRC Bevon Morrison said the current technology-driven solution to sewage disposal is the largest single waste water contract for the entity and the first time the organisation is treating waste from health facilities.

Through funding of $389 million from the National Health Fund (NHF) Sewage Treatment Plants will be installed simultaneously at the Fellowship Health Centre in Portland, Savanna-la-mar Hospital in Westmoreland, Noel Holmes Hospital and Lucea Health Department in Hanover, Ulster Spring Health Centre in Trelawny, Princess Margaret Hospital in St Thomas and Percy Junor Hospital.

The contract for the project was signed in early April and work will take place over a 20-month period at National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) standard.

According to Morrison, Minister with portfolio responsibility for Science Technology Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell has insisted that the work of the organisation must be relevant to the current needs and realities in Jamaica.

"It must be done in such a manner that we can solve those local problems in an environmentally sustainable manner and at an affordable cost. He (Paulwell) is very clear that these technologies must be actively promoted and made available to various agencies in the country," said Morrison.

Paulwell who was at the event highlighted spin-off benefits of the Biodigester Septic Tanks that can be explored by the hospitals such as using water from it to wet lawn and extracting the odourless gas for cooking.

Chairman of NHF Sterling Soares said while sewerage may not be the most pleasant topic to talk about it is a very essential one.

" Waste in sewerage often contains organisms that cause life-threatening diseases and we should not let our guard down. Due to the growth of population in areas like these and the increase in the number of persons using health facilities this has put a burden on the existing facilities creating the need for the rehabilitation and construction of new sewerage treatment plants," Soares said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson who was speaking at the ceremony at the Percy Junor Hospital in Manchester to launch the Sewerage Treatment Project said developments should be driven by science and practical research and has encouraged scientists not to be too hesitant to make the information available to the public.

"We have to become a nation driven by science and technology and (recognise) that whatever we do it must be in the end to the greater glory of the people we serve," Ferguson said.

A former junior minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Ferguson put into perspective the unfavourable effects of withholding information meant to impact members of the public.

"I remember very well there was a problem we had with farmers (and) a particular disease. While we were at Bodles (Agricultural Research Station) doing research that would have given us probably 80-90 per cent response we were still holding to get a 100 while the farmers were out there suffering...," he recalled.

Ferguson said bold, far reaching and strategic decisions must be taken in the health sector as Jamaica contemplates developing health tourism.

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