DoH tells surgery patients: stop bringing body parts as souvenirs

DEPARTMENT of Health hospital systems officers are hoping that patients will stop taking as souvenirs body parts excised during surgeries or delivery as souvenirs or amulets.

In an interview on Tuesday with Dr. Almusaidi Karay, DOH-XI hospital systems development unit head, said this practice is still common in Filipino households.

He said that while this is rooted in the some beliefs of many people—to keep preserved parts like placenta, amputated limbs, organs, and teeth, as souvenir or amulet, especially those in remote areas—the practice might be hazardous to health because these are actually potentially infectious items.

“The patients who take home these body parts are aware of the risks involved,” Karay said. “They could potentially be exposed to blood borne diseases like hepatitis B and hepatitis C.”

Karay added that anything involving blood and body fluids are infectious. Despite the known risk, patients continue to make requests from their hospitals that they take home these body parts, which are considered waste after a surgery or post-delivery.

This is one of the several practices that his department hopes to change through a healthcare waste management training in the Royal Mandaya Hotel.

The training, which gathered hospital officers and pollution officers from the region’s local government hospitals, aimed to improve and develop hospital system operations especially waste management.

There are currently 17 local government hospitals throughout the Davao Region (in Compostela Valley, in Davao del Sur, in Davao del Norte, in Davao Oriental, and in Davao Occidental) and all of these have varying licenses to operate. Some are infirmaries while others are bigger hospitals capable of giving extensive services.

He said there is a need to constantly improve waste handling to avoid having to bring healthcare waste outside their premises.

“Hospitals need to be equipped with waste management internally,” he said. This also covers educating medical personnel, janitors, and even patients how to handle waste to avoid unwanted infections.

He added that the DOH and DENR are working together to ensure that internal management of healthcare waste is mobilized through licensed collectors.

“Healthcare waste management is also dependent on the need and size of hospitals,” he said. “This is specific to patients and hospital capacity and operations.”

The region’s local government hospitals do not produce elaborate medical waste that need to be processd but patients are sometimes left with waste that winds up in their homes (like placentas in jars after delivery of pregnant women).

He is hoping that local hospitals, which regularly produces blood products, laboratory wastes which have low levels of toxicity, will be able to come up with policies hat will allow them to disinfect and manage their own waste internally and avoid spreading infection to nearby populations.

The problem with local government hospitals is the fast turnover of workers, hence the constant need to hold trainings like this, he said.

“Personnel and patients—and not just doctors—need to know how to protect themselves from infectious waste,” he said.

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