At KEM Hospital, where any day patient load crosses a thousand, it is a common scenario to watch a doctor hurry to the patient’s cot, give instructions to nurse who then gives an injection to the patient, dabs it with cotton and bandage and asks the sweeper to clean the litter. In a second’s mistake, the cotton waste — supposed to be thrown in a red bag — and the needle — supposed to end up in a white bag — may end up getting mixed, thus changing its waste-management treatment.
In an effort to ensure correct practices when it comes to hospital waste management, the ministry of environment has issued a new set of Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules in March. “Even then, awareness in corporation hospitals is less. In Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), the staff strength is very low. So surprise inspections in these hospitals are a rarity,” said an official attached with SMS Envoclean Pvt Ltd, the company responsible for collecting bio-medical waste from over 1,500 hospitals in Mumbai.
The problem is not only with negligence when it comes to segregation of waste in the major hospitals, it is also lack of awareness among small practitioners who have individual clinics from where waste is directly dumped into civic waste. “Not all general physicians are registered with the MPCB,” said an MPCB official.
The stray injections and the tiny rolls of blood-soaked cotton then end up in a common pool at a dumping ground, posing threat of infection among ragpickers.
With the new guidelines, there is a hope for stringent bio-medical waste management. “Earlier, there were a few healthcare facilities such as non-allopathic centres that did not need authorisation from the MPCB. Now, all the health centres will come under our authority,” said Amar Supate, principal scientific officer at MPCB. The new guidelines also make clear distinction of what waste to be put in which bag. Treatment of each is different. “If it ends up in any other bag, the treatment may change,” said an Envoclean official.