THE ADMINISTRATION of Government Multi-Specialty Hospital (GMSH), Sector 16, has failed to prepare a strategy to manage waste containing mercury content generated by the hospital, and it is putting life of patients and staff at risk.
This revelation has been made in the current audit and inspection report of the accounts of the office of the Director Health and Family Welfare-cum-Principal Medical Officer, Sector 16. The inspection was done for the period from April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015.
Mercury is present in hospitals, mainly in clinical thermometers and sphygmomanometers (instruments measuring blood pressure).
Elaborating on the seriousness of the the mercury spillage, the audit mentions, “Breakages of these instruments result in a potentially hazardous spillage which can affect both patients and staff, unless such spillage is dealt with quickly and efficiently. Contamination of the floor and fabric of the room will continue to produce harmful mercury vapour for years afterwards.”
The report hints that accidental spillage due to breakage of mercury thermometer is very common across hospitals and has been estimated at two thermometers per bed per year. Since GMSH-16 is a 500-bedded hospital, which means that around 1,000 mercury thermometers break per year.
The report also highlights that though there are alternatives available for use instead of equipment containing mercury, the hospital authorities continue to purchase the same equipment.
Further, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has laid out guidelines regarding precautions to be taken to avoid mercury spillage and the final disposal options for mercury-bearing waste generated from healthcare facilities.
“But hospital administration has not prepared any strategy required for managing mercury-bearing waste in hospital. Due to lack of proper strategy and educational and implementation efforts, hazardous spillage could not be controlled which was affecting both patients and staff in hospital for a long time,” the report notes.
Highlighting the hazardous effects of such equipment on life and environment, the audit report emphasises that the hospital should take measures to control this hazardous spillage. It has sought a detailed year-wise report on the total number of thermometers purchased by the hospital from 2011-12 to 2014-15.
However, Dr V K Gagneja says, “The health department has stopped purchasing equipment that contain mercury. For the disposal of old equipment, we will also consult the CPCB and follow proper procedure of disposing the mercury waste.”