A letter was submitted to the Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi about another ailment in his department, this time the risk of health officials benefitting illegally from the black market trading of human placenta. This comes after the exposure of malpractice at provincial hospitals whereby more than one placenta is stored in a removal bin when disposed from the hospital, enabling officials to make the extra placenta(s) “disappear”.
Minister Motsoaledi was called to promulgate with immediate effect a regulation limiting the storage and removal of human placenta to one per storage bin.
The DA has learnt from industry insiders that because some hospitals put more than one placenta in the required storage bin, individual placentas cannot be registered as required under the Human Tissues Act. Missing placentas can therefore not be traced or accounted for and can easily disappear into the black market for human anatomical waste, where the current market price for a human placenta ranges between R500 and R750.
The Human Tissues Act stipulates how the disposal of placentas should work: all human anatomical waste is registered in a Human Tissue Register after the weight has been taken, the container’s barcode and label are scanned and recorded on the Waste Control Document (WCD) that accompany it (the waste) from the point of generation to final disposal. A Safe Disposal Certificate (the WCD pink form) is then issued and returned at month end, together with the medical waste removal company’s invoice, to the originating hospital. This is then filed together with the WCD’s white form that is signed and kept where the waste originally left the hospital.
By checking the Human Tissue Register at every hospital, it is possible to identify and trace what happens to human placentas – but only if they have been individually registered. If not, multiple placentas can end up in a single storage bin (weight is not always an indication of quantity, as many smaller placentas can weigh as much as a large one). From what we have learnt, this happens at several provincial hospitals, especially in the rural parts of the Northeastern parts of the country.
Apart from the risk of fraud and corruption, the unrecorded disposal of human placentas constitutes an infringement on human dignity and public health. By ensuring that there is one placenta per storage bin – and ensuring that this is honoured by extensive monitoring – Minister Motsoaledi would contribute greatly to solving this problem. The DA will persist with this issue until our medical waste removal industry is managed in a safe, secure, efficient and accountable way and the bio-safety of our health facilities have been secured.