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Holguin Hospitals Throw Away Biological Wastes in the Cemetery

Holguin Hospitals Throw Away Biological Wastes in the Cemetery /
14ymedio, Orlando Palma and Fernando Donate
Posted on July 11, 2015

14ymedio, Orlando Palma and Fernando Donate, Holguin, 11 July 2015 –
Broken tombstones, open graves, dilapidated tombs, and, here and there,
scavengers that devour shallowly buried remains. This is no scene from a
horror movie but images from a video that exposes the serious situation
in the Mayabe Cemetery in Holguin.

Released by the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in 2014, the film was
produced by journalists Nairovis Zaldivar, Yainiel Diamela Escofet and
Rosaida Check, and has been distributed through the illegal “weekly
packet” that circulates widely in the province without any official
media picking up the story.

Almost a year later, the problem has not been solved; it was caused
because the Vladimir Ilich Lenin University General Hospital, the Lucia
Iniguez Landin Surgical Teaching Clinic and the Provincial Military
Hospital bury their wastes in the place, since their crematoriums are
not functioning. Criticism of the mismanagement of biological wastes has
been heard at various levels but local authorities have not taken action
in the matter.

In the investigative work the errors committed by the medical
institutions depositing the remains from surgeries, abortions,
amputations and tests, without proper precautions, are laid bare. For
months, those who have visited the grave of a relative in the cemetery
have been overwhelmed by carrion birds and other animals that helped
themselves to the hospital wastes barely covered by a little dirt.

Located six kilometers from the city, the Holguin cemetery has some
500,000 square meters and is one of the biggest in the country. Although
there are no homes nearby, at midday the bad odor is unbearable,
especially in the area at the back of the site where the three medical
centers dump their wastes.

On the Cuban Medicine Blog, Doctor Eloy A. Gonzalez calls attention to
the fact that “the management of hospital wastes, above all biological
materials, is a problem of the highest priority for health systems and
the organizations and institutions charged with management and disposal
of the same.”

The doctor points out that “you cannot walk around in cemeteries
throwing away biological wastes, barely buried where soon stray dogs and
carrion birds notice the anatomical parts that come from a hospital. Are
there no incinerators in hospitals in Cuba?” he asks. His text
circulates through the email of various health professional with
accounts on the Infomed service.

Specialists consulted by this daily agree that a first step to solving
the problem would be to diminish as much as possible the biological
wastes that the hospitals generate. Once reduced, their collection,
transport and disposal must be rigorously controlled. Failure to fulfill
the measures associated with the treatment of these wastes can present a
serious health risk.

With the scandal uncovered by the UNPACU video, now the wastes are
buried more deeply, although still without regard to the measures
required for their handling. The regular edition of the February 15,
1999, Official Gazette governs the responsibility of “the heads of the
entities that are in charge of installations and release areas whose
operations generate dangerous biological wastes.”

Under Cuban law, wastes that may contain “biological agents, organisms
and fragments of agents or organisms with genetic information, that
represent a real or potential danger for human health and the
environment in general” must be removed in a way that “guarantees the
protection of the environment and in particular the population and workers.”

On questioning about the topic at the Vladimir Ilich Lenin University
General Hospital, the employees shy away from responding about the
conditions in which the wastes from the health center end up at the
Holguin graveyard. Only one employee from the laboratory area, who
preferred anonymity, submits: “We have problems with resources, for
example with the correct bags and containers for placing the samples
that we process.”

When they will repair the crematorium is a question that finds no answer
in the management of the health center and much less in its
administration. Nevertheless, the epidemiological risk from the wastes
is not the only cause for worry for those Holguin residents who visit
the cemetery. The use of an area laden with funereal connotations as a
biological dumping ground bothers many, too.

Lucia, 72 years of age, often visits the family mausoleum which is
located a few meters from the place where the hospitals bury their
wastes. “It is a lack of respect that they do this because this is a
sacred place for the dead to rest in peace,” this lady complains, and
although she has not seen the journalistic report, she asserts: “I
realized that something was going on when I arrived and this was full of
miserable buzzards.”

The main complaint, however, lies in the fact that such a sensitive
matter that involves ethical and epidemiological issues has still not
been dealt with by the province’s official media. “It seems that they
are waiting for something grave to happen, for someone to get sick or to
protest because of this disrespect, before they put it in the press,”
says Lucia.

Translated by MLK

Source: Holguin Hospitals Throw Away Biological Wastes in the Cemetery /
14ymedio, Orlando Palma and Fernando Donate | Translating Cuba –

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