Tuesday, Aug 13, 2002
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By D.K.Kishan Rao
It is observed that the authorities of most of the government hospitals and doctors in private clinics and nursing homes are used to dumping untreated hospital wastes in open areas. Their failure to dispose of such highly infectious bio-medical waste in a safe manner has threatened the health of the people.
Hospital waste includes used needles and syringes, glass slides with blood stains, biopsy tissue, foetuses, placenta, infected dressing material, used aluminium foils, voiles, bottles and so on. Nearly 25 per cent of these are infectious and half of them do not get destroyed even after they are burnt in high temperature. Hospitals are supposed to segregate waste and dispose it of in a safe manner. It is essential for them to take care to dispose of highly contaminated and infectious waste. Such material should be treated in high temperature and the residues should be buried deep to avoid contamination of the environment.
On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the authorities concerned to educate the people not to come in contact with waste around hospitals and health clinics.
However, a majority of hospitals, nursing homes and clinics are found dumping untreated waste on municipal grounds, open yards or on the roadside in front of their buildings. This possibly results in the spread of many epidemics, skin diseases and communicable diseases such as cholera, typhoid, gastroenteritis, tuberculosis, diptheria and even AIDS. Commonly, it has been found that hospital waste gets mixed up with rainwater and enters drinking water supply lines during monsoon.
Neither the authorities in charge of public health nor any voluntary organisation have initiated steps for the effective implementation of hospital waste management. Even the Indian Medical Association and the Pollution Control Board seem to be unconcerned.
Both the Union and the State governments have failed to take measures for the safe disposal of hospital waste despite a Supreme Court order directing hospitals, both government and private, with more than 50 beds to adopt an effective waste disposal system.
According to sources in the State Health Ministry, only the Government Hospital in Mysore and the Victoria Hospital in Bangalore have installed incinerators to handle hospital waste. Recently, an incinerator was provided to the Civil Hospital in Gulbarga. But it has not been put into operation due to shortage of staff. Most private hospitals with more than 50 beds have failed to install incinerators. The Government has also failed to enforce the law regarding hospital waste management.
In backward cities such as Raichur, Gulbarga and Bellary, the waste generated by hospitals is dumped in the open or thrown around hospitals posing a health hazard particularly to those living in the vicinity. However, the hospital authorities claim that they burn the waste.
An incinerator recently installed at the Raichur District Civil Hospital at Rs.1 crore has not been put into use and the waste is being dumped at the main entrance posing a health hazard to the people coming there.
The OPEC-assisted super speciality Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Hospital run under the supervision of the Apollo management has not taken steps to install an incinerator.
Even the Pollution Control Board has failed to look into this aspect. The Government, therefore, should take measures to ensure safe disposal of hospital waste. It should amend rules to punish erring hospital and clinics. However, creating public awareness on the issue is the need of the hour.
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