In what could raise serious questions about the safety of bio-medical waste disposal in the district, it is found that about 30 per cent of the hospitals do not dispose off their biomedical waste as per the rules laid down by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
As per the CPCB, bio-medical wastes generated during the diagnosis, treatment or immunization of human beings or animals, or in research activities, must not be mixed with the general waste. It must be put in for treatment within a period of 48 hours and must be treated only by approved agencies or individual recogonised units.
The bio-medical unit and its operation is expensive, running into crores of rupees, and only a handful of large-scale multi-speciality hospitals, with a daily bio-medical waste generation of at least five tonnes, can afford it.
Hence, currently Indian Medical Association’s (IMA) agency, IMAGE have taken up this responsibility from the city hospitals for a fixed fee. However, according to officials at IMA, many hospitals are not supplying their bio-medical waste to them. “Only a handful of large scale hospitals in the city has waste disposal units but as high as 30 per cent of the hospitals do not dispose their waste with IMAGE. This includes both the major hospitals in the city as well as clinics,” said the President of the IMA Kochi, Dr Abraham Varghese.
Apart from hospitals, the problem also extends to households in the city, who have patients suffering from illnesses like diabetics, AIDS and are regular producers of bio-medical waste.
However, in most cases, this is disposed off with the general waste which poses an alarming health threat to the municipality waste pickers and other local body workers who might come in direct contact with the waste. It is equally threatening to the general public since much of this waste is not treated within the prescribed 48 hours or isolated from human and animal contact as prescribed by the Pollution Control Board.
One of the key concerns about the improper disposal of bio-medical waste is the reuse of infected syringes. “Ill-disposed syringes found amidst general waste often reach the hands of rag pickers who in turn repack and sell them. The common public are often unaware of this when they buy the syringes leading to diseases like HIV and Jaundice,” said Dr Varghese.
Authorities from the Pollution Control Board said that the proper disposal of bio-medical waste will be made stringent in the coming days. “There has been strict directions that all hospitals and even clinics that cannot afford the individual waste disposal unit, must compulsorily must list with IMAGE. The licenses of the hospitals which violate this norm will be cancelled,” said Chief Environmental Engineer, Ernakulam, Mythili M S.