Safe practices and methods of sharps waste disposal in health facilities in the Western Highlands province of Papua New Guinea
Safe practice and use of appropriate methods for safe management and disposal of sharps waste are important infection control and prevention activities in health care facilities around the world including those in Western Highlands Province (WHP) of Papua New Guinea (PNG). With respect to health care workers, abiding to safe practices related to the use of sharps devices will create a safe environment for health care workers and their colleagues, their patients, the general public and the environment. In particular, the unsafe practice and disposal of sharps poses a risk of blood borne virus (BBV) infections particularly hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) all of which can be fatal.
Health care workers have a part to play in adhering to and following safe practices delineated by the appropriate guidelines and policies. Likewise, management and administrators have a part to play in providing guidelines and supporting safe methods of practice.
Studies in many countries have identified the contributing factors and proposed certain policies and measures to be undertaken in the health facilities in their countries with respect to safe practice with sharps devices and appropriate disposal methods. However, no previous studies have been found that have identified the factors that promote proper practices and disposal activities related to sharps devices in an urban and rural health facilities in PNG. This study sets out to fill this gap.
The study was carried out using qualitative methodology (semi structured interviews) with clinical health care workers who used sharps in their day to day practice. The findings were analysed using a thematic approach. The significant results included lack of regular in house and induction training, poor knowledge about BBV infections, a lack of a reporting protocol for needle stick and sharps injuries and unsafe practice as well as poor sharps waste management activities. This led to a feeling of powerlessness amongst health care workers.
Recommendations from the research include the need to involve clinical staff in the production of a new infection control and sharps waste management manual, introduce and implement the infection control and sharps waste management programme to the rural health facilities, conduct regular training to both urban and rural health care workers, management team of health services in WHP to improve and support with consistent provisions in terms of sharps waste disposal items and methods to both urban and rural settings. If successful, this could be made available to all the health facilities in PNG.