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Failure to handle hospital waste
Source: : Deccan Herald, Date: April , 2013
segregation, disregard for public safety and lack of watchdog prove worrisome.
a time when the Delhi government is grappling with the disposal of solid municipal
waste, the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) report on the disposal of
hazardous biomedical waste, also known as hospital waste, has put the
government on the mat.
administration is being castigated for disregarding public health and safety.
There are Common BioMedical Waste Treatment Facilities (CBWTFs) in the City for
the treatment and disposal of biomedical waste, but questions have been raised
on the way contracts are awarded to the operators of these treatment plants and
the lack of quality standards that they maintain.
The Delhi High Court has questioned the setting up of waste incineration plants
in Sukhdev Vihar. It has directed the civic authorities to shift the
incinerator at Okhla in south Delhi, following health concerns expressed by
residents of Sukhdev Vihar, a residential locality bordering Okhla.
Need for regulatory body
â€śProblems raised by the people of Sukhdev Vihar form one aspect of the quality
of treatment in these plants. No doubt the government has tried to regulate the
disposal of biomedical waste but the problem lies in certifying the quality of
treatment,â€ť says Ravi Aggarwal, director of Toxic Link, an environmental NGO.
â€śWe donâ€™t have an external body that can keep an eye on the working of
treatment plants. There should be a separate institution to work on the quality
control,â€ť he suggests. More worrisome is the lack of awareness regarding
biomedical waste disposal among both hospital staff and safai karamcharis.
â€śThere is no awareness on segregation of biomedical waste. Generally, hospital
staff do not put the waste into colour-coded boxes. Hazardous waste is dumped
in the open. Ragpickers sort it and they are the worst hit. They could get
series infections such as Hepatitis C,â€ť says Prof A K Agarwal, president of the
Indian Society of Hospital Waste Management (ISHWM).
According to the BioMedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules,1998
different kinds of waste generated by hospitals must be kept in colour-coded
waste such as bandages, gauze, cotton or any object that has body fluids, human
body parts or placenta are to be stored for further disposal in yellow
containers or bags; plastic waste such as catheters, injections and syringes in
red bags; all types of glass and discarded/ expired medicines in blue bags;
needles without syringes, blades, sharps and all metal articles in black bags.
Mercury in hospital waste poses another serious problem. â€śThe poisonous metal
is found in medical instruments such as thermometers, blood pressure
instruments, gastrointestinal tubes, dilation and feeding tubes and dental
amalgams. The disposal of mercury is a serious business. Many hospitals are
trying to phase out its usage by using alternatives such as electronic
thermometers. Even dentists are opting for alternative composites like ceramic
to fill cavities,â€ť explains Prof Agarwal.
Tapas Sahay, MD, Synergy Waste Management, faults the â€ślax approachâ€ť of
hospital authorities in segregating waste. â€śIt is the responsibility of the
hospital to segregate its waste according to guidelines. An object that has to
be autoclaved cannot be put in an incinerator. If hospital waste is not
segregated, it is bound to create a problem when it comes to waste treatment,â€ť
he says. Synergy is one of the operators of Common BioMedical Waste Treatment
The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has authorised three operators for
the collection, treatment and disposal of biomedical waste from as many as
3,000 health care units in the City. But there are plenty of small clinics that
fall below the DPCCâ€™s radar.
government and private hospitals work with waste disposal operators but thereâ€™s
no one to keep a check on small clinics. They usually dump their biomedical
waste in open grounds,â€ť says Prof Agarwal. A joint effort by clinics, hospitals
and the government is the only way out of the crisis.
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