Hospital is a place to serve the patients. Since the beginning, the hospitals are known for the treatment of sick persons but we are unaware of the adverse effects of the garbage and filth generated by them in the environment.
Now it is a well established fact that these harmful effects can be disastrous to us and our environment. The hospital waste is not only disastrous to the hospital workers and patients but also affects the attendants and the people living in the area surrounding the hospitals including the flora and fauna, practically speaking the whole environment.
Some very dreadful diseases like Hepatitis B and AIDS are accidentally transmitted to the patients through infected blood and blood products.
The level of water, land and air pollution is steadily going up. The gases like furan and Hydrochloric Acid which are produced by the hospital incinerators have compelled the authorities to take more serious steps towards management of biomedical waste.
Today is the era of complex, multi disciplinary hospitals which consume thousands of items for delivery of medical care and at the same time these hospitals have shown a rapid mushrooming which has burdened the physical environment beyond its capacity.
The advent and acceptance of “disposables” have made the hospitals safe for treatment on one hand but on the other hand they are contributing not only to maximum hospital waste but also contributing to the most harmful waste that is generated. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), about 20-25 tonne of biomedical waste is generated per year in Delhi alone. The most common wastes are used syringes, gloves, body parts, and some of them are capable of transmitting infections.
The central treatment facility (CTF) at Kanota, Jaipur, is the only plant first of its kind in North India, but this is also suffering from official apathy. On the eve of world Environment Day, an onsite survey revealed that the norms of waste collection and segregation of waste are being openly flouted. Despite the 1996 Supreme Court guidelines and contrary to court directive, disposable syringes and other plastic waste are openly burnt instead of recycling and organs and tissues from the hospital waste are found scattered on open grounds. The question here is like an open mouth of a monster of dreadful diseases like Hepatitis-B and AIDS and many others which can gulp down the health of the whole society, the Government of India has made rules for bio-medical waste management and handling under Environmental Protection Act by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
According to the available data the country produces around three million tonnes of bio-medical waste annually and every year there is eight per cent growth in the generation of bio-medical waste. A closer look also makes it clear that not even half of this total waste generated is being treated and disposed off in an environmentally sound manner. This can be a potential cause for serious health risk to larger population and we need to find out effective solutions for controlling this. Here I must say that only making laws or rules and regulations would not suffice, the aim should be to implement these laws and we should not only emphasise but strengthen the role of public-private partnership, which will definitely help in filling this gap between making laws and implementing them. A considerable disparity is seen when it comes to comparison of hospital waste disposal in public sector and private sector hospitals; on one hand the private sector hospitals of every category are under the scrutiny of the governmental authorities and on the other hand even the teaching hospitals are neglecting the set rules of hospital waste disposal.
Despite the efforts, we still do not have safe drinking water in our country. A country, we call Mother India -does not have enough literate children with the concern for her. What we need to bring about is a cultural change, as we already have the technology.
Every health care centre which produces bio-medical waste should be asked to dispose the bio-medical waste as a rule or to make its own SOP about “How to safely dispose bio-medical waste it generates.” Overall the health care centres are to run by learned personnel, who are also responsible towards the general public and nation. By this we will get several procedures for safe disposal of bio-medical waste and after proper screening these procedures can also be included in the act. We will be able to dispose bio-medical waste safely as per need of a particular situation and place. The main aim of the pollution control board should not be compliance of the act only; but also how the waste generated by health care centres can be safely disposed in present circumstances and situation.
An amendment is needed in the Environmental Protection Act which names the Pollution Control Board as the competent authority for solid waste, bio-medical waste and hazardous waste management. However, local body is the one accountable for cleaning up wastes. In such a case, the local bodies should be given authority to implement e-waste disposal rules, but at the same time it should be made sure that giving things in local hands does not increase the corruption at local level. The task is not a one man show, it has to be a concrete, committed and a whole hearted effort by each agency that is responsible for proper disposal of this monstrous amount of bio-medical waste that is being generated which endangers not only Mother India but Mother earth.
(The writer can be contacted at Swasthyakalyan, Hospital, 5449, KGB, Ka Rasta, Johri Bazar, Jaipur)