COVID-19 BIOMEDICAL waste to the tune of 8.6 lakh kg has been generated across 160 hospitals in the city between March 20 and October 20. The daily amount of Covid biomedical waste, however, has reduced in the last two months due to fewer positive cases. But several hospitals are upset over the large bills they have attracted for disposing of the waste, with some even threatening to go to court over the matter. Several hospitals are protesting the rate of Rs 100 per kg for disposing of Covid biomedical waste.
The PMC has outsourced the work of treating and disposing of Covid biomedical waste to a private firm, Passco Environmental Solutions, which has submitted a bill of Rs 8.7 crore to the civic body. Covid waste mainly includes PPE suits, masks, shoe covers, gloves and items contaminated with bodily fluids.
Bomi Bhote, chairperson of the association of hospitals in Pune, said the rate was not feasible, and urged the civic body to reconsider.
Dr Dhananjay Kelkar, medical director of Deenanath Mangeshkar hospital, told The Indian Express that the rates were three times the amount levied for disposing of biomedical waste. “This is unfair and we will file a case in the court against these rates,” he said.
Dr H K Sale, executive director of Noble hospital, said they received a bill of Rs 40 lakh from April to August. “There is a price cap on treating Covid patients. We have faced several issues like staff shortage, and have had to coax staff to stay on and assist with treatment. We cannot afford to pay such huge sums and will pay at the rate prior to the Covid pandemic,” Dr Sale said.
According to Dr Madhur Rao, senior deputy medical administrator, KEM hospital, the hike was unfair. “We cannot sustain paying Rs 100 rate per kg at all; this is uneconomical,” he said.
Dr Sanjay Patil, chairperson of Indian Medical Association’s Hospital Board of India (Pune Chapter), said small and medium nursing homes simply could not afford these rates. “We have requested the authorities to waive these charges,” Dr Patil said.
Civic officials said due to the pandemic, authorities initially had to address issues such as staff shortage at healthcare facilities and bed shortage for Covid patients. “A presentation was made by Passco Environmental Solutions as to how they arrived at the rate of levying Rs 100 per kg as they too incurred several costs for transporting and treating Covid-19 waste. A meeting will be held soon to decide on the issue,” said Manisha Naik, Assistant Medical Officer, PMC.
Sunil Dandawate, director of Passco Environmental Solutions, told The Indian Express that the firm had compared the rates with 12 other municipal corporations. “The incinerator at the common biomedical waste treatment facility initially broke down due to the tremendous load of Covid biomedical waste. Till June, this waste included leftover food and plates used by Covid-19 patients. Soon though, food and plates were considered solid waste and disposed of according to solid waste management rules. Initially, Covid biomedical waste was 9,000 kg per day (with food). After being segregated, it was approximately 6,000 kg per day. Still, we had to incur the cost of transporting the waste to the common hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facility at Taloja in Mumbai,” Dandawate said.
He added that though load had come down, at least 2,500 kg Covid biomedical waste was being generated daily, and that payments were now being made to the operator at Taloja on the 16th of each month and the firm was unable to meet the cost.
Over 1.6 lakh patients have undergone treatment for Covid-19 in the city, while 4,577 have died of the viral infection. At present, there are 388 critical patients at different hospitals, out of which 235 are on ventilator support. According to civic authorities, till Sunday night, there were 5,191 active cases in the city.
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