Medical waste must be managed properly
Thousands of diagnostic centers, hospitals, clinics and medical centers are collecting a huge number of samples for diagnosis every day and there are post-surgery solid and liquid wastes including amputated limbs and many others.
A good amount of wastes remain untreated and are being dumped in open grounds which easily becomes contact with kids, street boys and pollute air and even few scavengers pick up the hospital wastes from open dumping sites for its reuse or reselling.
The untreated wastes carry deadly infectious germs that spread diseases.
Its different pathological organisms also can lead to a serious public health consequences and cause adverse impact on environment. To avoid such situation the government though has taken different time to time initiatives, its inadequate and even in many cases threat for public health is intensifying as technicians, doctors, hospital, clinic and diagnostic centers are not obeying laws. To save people from such health hazards and for a germ-free sterilized environment, it is imperative to manage the wastes. It should be recycled and disposed-off by adopting modern facilities. Its phase wise separation, collection, storage and transportation must be maintained.
If medical wastes are not properly managed or treated, more dangerous situation would arise and destroy people's lives due to in toxic chemicals and air pollution. The government must strengthen its efforts of creating more awareness among people by providing adequate knowledge among physicians, technicians, hospital authorities and to all people related with health care services.
Knowledge must be available about liquid and solid medical wastes, sharp instruments, pathological waste and toxic chemicals and it must also be learnt that if wastes are not properly managed antibiotic-resistant pathogens and active antibiotics may enter the environment. In April this year, the High Court issued a rule asking the government to explain in four weeks why it should not be directed to establish effluent treatment plant (ETP) individually or centrally in every hospital, diagnostic and other medical service stations for disposal and recycling medical waste.
"In the rule, the court also asked the government's explanation as to "Why it should not be ordered to take necessary action to protect environment regarding medical waste disposal, recycling, and transportation for the safeguard of nature and health care of the citizens?"
In response to a writ petition, the HC ordered health secretary and the director general of Department of Environment (DoE) to submit a report by July 22nd the progress over forming the authority in every administrative division as per the relevant rules for managing and processing of the medical waste.
In the rapid increase of hospitals, clinics and diagnostic laboratories in all the major cities of the country, medical wastes' proper management has become a serious cause for concern. The government is repeatedly making alerts on used needles, toxic chemicals and other infectious materials.
The government is also alerting health related people about resell of plastic made medical wastes that there is a lucrative market for plastic recycle business. It is learned that plastic ware industry is the biggest buyer of used syringes, infusion and blood bags, so it is the law and order people's duty to avert such trade.
The wastes should not be dumped in open ground as dogs, cats, and birds come in search of their food at the wastes and they carry the germs and further spread the infectious materials in the locality. Laws are there in the country regarding handling, treatment, and disposal of waste. But there is no regulatory body to ensure that the rules are being followed.
Two methods, the first - landfills and the second - incineration for disposing-off medical wastes can be used. In the landfill method, hospital waste is buried underground. But this is rarely done in Bangladesh as we are densely populated and don't know if landfill sites in the country are constructed as per scientific rules. On the other hand incineration is the best way for Bangladesh but currently this is not being maintained by most hospitals and only a handful maintains incinerators.
The wastes should be segregated and be stored in special containers. Proper landfills should be constructed and install incinerators should be made mandatory for all hospitals. The government must go for the massive campaign across the country for making awareness among people, understand the issues of waste treatment technologies and obey existing rules and regulations.
Currently, with foreign donations, good numbers of measures are there in the country that wastes are being managed, transported and disposed-off in modern ways which are concentrated mainly in the urban areas.
Along with the government, different nongovernment organizations and private institutions can come forward to solve the rising problem. In this regard there should be allocation for adequate funds, creating network with local experts and with fund donating companies for mutual understanding of the rising medical waste borne problems.
The NGOs also can assist in building proper infrastructure, enhance waste management people's capacity and build health friendly medical services. For setting up treatment plants ICDDRB example could be encouraging that how they dispose-off the medical wastes in their own plants which have been set up at their premises.
Besides, the country's microbiology experts can closely work with the different organizations of the government to find out easy ways of managing wastes, its treatment, and dispose-off.
The writer is a former president of American Chambers of Commerce