Group sees mercury-free hospitals in 2010

By CHRISTIAN WAKEFIELD, Reporter

A NONGOVERNMENT organization (NGO) is optimistic that hospitals around the country will phase out the use of mercury-filled thermometers and other equipment by 2010 to ensure a less toxic environment.

Merci Ferrer, executive director of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) in South East Asia, said hospitals around the country have been doing their share in doing away with the use of mercury-filled thermometers as she further urged other hospitals, especially public hospitals and those run by local government units to comply with the Administrative Order 2008-0021.

Administrative Order 2008-0021 mandates all hospitals to discontinue the distribution of mercury thermometers in the patient’s admission/discharge kits. Further, it requires all hospitals to follow the guidelines for the gradual phase-out of mercury in two years.

“At least 50 hospitals in Metro Manila have complied with the order and we are hoping that others will follow suit, ensuring our compliance by next year,” said Ferrer during yesterday’s 888 News Forum at the Cebu City Waterfront Hotel.

When mercury-filled thermometers are phased out in exchange of digital thermometers, Ferrer said they will then move for the phasing out of other mercury-filled devices like vaccines and cleaning parts.

According to Ferrer, as early as January 2006, the Department of Health has announced its commitment to gradually eliminate mercury-use in its health care system. “The challenge is for DOH to make it happen even before 2010 especially for sphygmomanometer to be phased-out by that time.”

Engineer Oscar Tuazon of the Cebu Health and Wellness Council said yesterday that at least three big private hospitals in Cebu have already complied with the order and are no longer using mercury-filled thermometers.

In the First Mercury in Health Care Southeast Asia Conference in February 2006, the DOH in collaboration with HCWH agreed to come up with the AO outlining gradual phase-out of mercury devices in the country including thermometer, sphygmomanometer and other mercury-containing devices.

Another salient provision of the AO is the requirement to all new health care facilities applying for a license to operate to submit an inventory of all mercury-containing devices that will be used in their facilities and a corresponding mercury elimination program.

The AO also mandates that all other health care facilities other than hospital shall make a Mercury Minimization Program.

“The challenge now is for the Health Department to make it happen and allow Philippines’ health care system to play a leadership role in the global effort to eliminate mercury in health care” said Ferrer.

This is a very welcome move that will elevate the status of the Philippines as an environmentally-health conscious nation and the Philippines’ health system as less toxic to the environment, said Ferrer.

“Now, the Philippines is not just the only country in the world to ban the use of incinerators. It is also the first in the whole of Southeast Asia––and for that matter the first developing country––to commit phase-out mercury in its health care system,” she added.

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