Safe disposal of clinical waste
Separation, collection, storage, transportation and disposal of hospital waste are serious and neglected matters in Bangladesh. Rampant irresponsibility and lack basic knowledge exists among both the doctors and hospital authorities. However, hospital wastes require regular, specific treatment and management prior to their final disposal.
It is an open secret that a significant amount of hospital waste is left untreated to be disposed in Dhaka's dumping grounds or allowed to flow and pollute the lakes and rivers in and around the city. Scavengers pick up hospital wastes, thrown in open dumping sites, for reselling. It goes without saying that hospital waste carries deadly infections and diseases. Infectious health care waste can cause a variety of infections because they contain different pathological organisms. Moreover, wrong handling of hospital waste and its widespread dumping here and there can lead to serious public health consequences and also a significant adverse impact on the environment.
With a rapid increase in the number of hospitals, clinics and diagnostic laboratories in all the major cities of the country, the proper management of medical waste has become a serious cause for concern. Media has repeatedly exposed that used needles, toxic chemicals and other infectious materials are picked up and resold. There is a lucrative market for health care waste in the recycling business. Allegedly the plastic-ware industry is the biggest buyer of used syringes, infusion and blood bags. There are laws in Bangladesh regarding handling, treatment and disposal of waste. However, apparently, there is no regulatory body to ensure that the rules are being followed.
According to an ordinance issued in 2008 regarding waste management, no healthcare facility can do any kind of waste management in their own capacity; only the city corporations were assigned with the task. Furthermore, the ordinance also made it mandatory for hospitals and healthcare centres to store the clinical wastes in a separate and secured place instead of dumping them on the streets.
Nowhere in the ordinance is it mentioned that these wastes can be recycled or repacked; it rather says the appropriate waste management authorities will carry this waste to a secure location far away from human settlement and bury or burn them.
Two methods including landfills and incineration can be used to dispose of medical waste. In the landfill method, hospital waste is buried underground. However, as said earlier, this is rarely done in Bangladesh. And there is no way to be sure that the landfill sites in the country are constructed on scientific lines. Very few hospitals of this country have incinerators. Medical experts recommend that the hospital waste must be segregated from domestic waste and stored in special containers. Proper landfills should be constructed and installing incinerators should be made mandatory for all hospitals.
Finally, we believe there is a need for countrywide persistent campaigning to make the people aware about the health and environment hazards of clinical waste.