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No official checks as JK hospitals flout biomedical waste rules

Hirra Azmat

Srinagar, Apr 08: Flouting the norms, most of the state-run hospitals lack the adequate facilities for bio medical waste management, endangering the health of people.

 

Bio medical waste contains a number of infectious bacteria and so it has to be handled very carefully and discharged in a safe manner, in accordance with the provisions of Bio Medical Waste Rules 2016.

According to the 2016 guidelines, waste should be collected in specified colour coded bags, disposal of needles and injections on the site, storage of colour coded bags in specified covered location, treatment and final disposal of waste at the authorized disposal site. Rules further provide implementation of barcode system for collection of waste.

However, Director State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), Dr Nadeem Hussain said the segregation of waste and colour coding was not followed properly.

“Waste segregation is confined to paper only. On the ground, less than 50% has been achieved when it comes to segregating waste,” Hussain said.

He said that most of the valley-based hospitals don’t have effluent treatment plants (ETP).

“Only SMHS had this facility, but even this has gone dysfunctional post 2014 floods. Till now, nothing has been done to fix this problem.” Hussain said.

According to the official figures, there are 67 government hospitals, 63 private hospitals, and 169 laboratories in the valley.

In addition, there are dispensaries, primary health centers, district, sub-district hospitals, registered and unregistered nursing homes.

“We understand that unauthorised health centers face several day-to-day problems when it comes to managing their waste including lack of adequate space for the waste treatment facility. However, I don’t see any plausible reason why the major hospitals don’t stick to the rules,” Hussain rued.

Hussain said the SPCB has now decided to send prosecution notices to the Government Medical College and Directorate of Health Services Kashmir.

“This procedure will be followed by our central office, as we have already communicated to them about the failure of government hospitals in submitting their annual reports,” he said.

As per one SPCB official, only two hospitals in the Valley have submitted the reports about their biomedical waste generation.

“So far, only Lal Ded Hospital and Chest Diseases Hospital have submitted the reports. The rest have not submitted the reports, despite several notices issued to them,” the official said.

Despite specific instructions from the PCB, the menace of dumping bio-medical waste in an unscientific manner is going unabated in the region.

Data reveals that around 3, 351 kilograms of such waste is unloaded and disposed-off in the two units at Lassipora and Lasjan daily.

Recently, the Environment Committee under the chairmanship of MLA, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami had expressed dissatisfaction over the working of the treatment plants.

The PCB director said: “It is a fact that these treatment facilities are not working properly.”

Given the grim situation, the PCB had decided to close down the facility at Lassipora where the major portion of the waste from government hospitals is collected.

“The PCB had apprised the Environment Committee as well as Tourism Ministry regarding this issue,” Hussain said.

Dr. Arshid, a noted environmentalist regretted there is no proper waste management technology in the valley.

“The bio medical waste can have dreadful consequences. Over the years, the waste can mix with soil, air, and water. With the result, it can become a major cause for the outbreak of an epidemic,” Arshid said.

Moreover, PCB has no data on the number of hospitals to whom it has served a show cause notice.

 Dr. Sabeena, senior scientist and head of biomedical waste management cell, SPCB, said, “We don’t have updated data because hospitals are unable to file annual reports. This is for the first time that details that were supposed to be submitted by June 2017 have not been submitted till now.”

Sabeena further said, “In order to improvise treatment facilities, the online monitoring system is being installed in the hospitals and will be monitored by the board.”

The waste treatment plan followed by the PCB too needs change.

An official at SKIMS wishing anonymity said, “The waste generated by the hospitals demands a different type of treatment but in Kashmir, every type of waste is treated in the same manner by burning it using an incinerator.”

A doctor at Gousia hospital, Khanyar too agreed that there is no proper mechanism in place for waste disposal.

The unit holder at Lassipora, however, has a different story to tell.

“The health department provides us three rupees for each bed. In Samba, however, seven rupees are paid for the same.  Hospitals are not paying us our dues. The hospitals owe me around Rs 30-35 lakh in liabilities. If they don’t pay me my dues, how am I supposed to rectify my shortcomings?” he said.