But some city hospitals and clinics are already complaining about high monthly fees for new equipment, located at Choeung Ek dumpsite.
Phoeun Sopheak, deputy supervisor at the new medical incinerator at Choeung Ek, demonstrates how waste is incinerated.
THE city's first medical incinerator, a project financed by municipal officials and the Phnom Penh branch of the Red Cross, became fully operational this month.
The project, located at the new Choeung Ek dumpsite, cost US$700,000 - $30,000 for the incinerator itself and $670,000 for the building it sits in and the roads that lead to it, said Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong, who is also president of the city's Red Cross chapter.
"I called for private companies to pay for the incinerator but no one could," he said.
He said he expected the incinerator to service hospitals and clinics in every municipal district and to bring health and environmental benefits to city residents.
In constructing the incinerator, project leaders received materials and technical assistance from Germany. The body of the incinerator came from Holland, and pipes for the incinerator came from Vietnam.
Though Pa Socheatvong has currently hired only four trucks and 30 workers, he said he plans to have one designated truck to collect medical waste in each district, noting that the incinerator can dispose of between one and two tonnes of medical waste per day.
Veng Thai, director of the Municipal Health Department, said city hospitals and clinics produce approximately three tonnes of medical waste each day.
Exposure to medical waste - which includes items such as needles, scissors and bandages - can cause headaches, diarrhoea and vomiting in addition to a range of diseases.
ALTHOUGH THE COST... WAS very HIGH, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR OUR HEALTH.
"Although the cost of the incinerator was very high, it is very important for our health," Veng Thai said. "Other countries already have them."
Pa Socheatvong said all hospitals and clinics would need to pay a fee to use the incinerator, adding that he had already heard complaints that the service was too expensive. He said small clinics would need to pay $5 per month, while medium and large clinics and hospitals would need to pay anywhere between $20 and $300 per month. He said more than 1,000 hospitals and clinics, including dental clinics, operate in Phnom Penh.
Worth the fee?
He said he had promoted the project out of humanitarian rather than profit-oriented goals.
"We don't force those clinics to pay for our service, but we already asked approval from the Ministry of Health to dispose of medical waste in the city," he said.
Heng Taikry, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health and the director of Calmette Hospital, said the hospital currently uses the incinerator and expects to dispose of around 500 kilograms of medical waste each month.
He said he knew of other hospitals and clinics that wanted to use the service but found the cost prohibitively expensive.
Heng Pouv, general manager of the Naga Clinic emergency room, said he supported the creation of the incinerator and had not yet decided whether the fee was too expensive.
"It depends on whether they service us well," he said.