Health hazard

Hospitals and clinics in Karnataka seem to be showing scant regard for public health and the environment. They are not disposing their bio-medical waste in a scientific manner. An affidavit filed by the Karnataka Pollution Control Board (KPCB) with the high court Lok Adalat says that 342 hospitals in the state, including four large ones, are not sending their solid waste to Common Bio-Medical Waste Treatment Facilities (CBMWTF) as required under the rules, but dumping it along with municipal waste. This is a matter of serious concern. This opens the door for unscrupulous elements re-cycling used materials.Soiled bandages and hospital linen, used syringes, needles, catheters and gloves, as well as blood and tissue samples need to be disposed scientifically. If not handled correctly, these become a source of diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis and hepatitis.

India produces 3 million tonnes of biomedical waste every year. There is an 8 per cent increase in the amount of biomedical waste generated annually. Just 45 per cent of the bio-medical waste is reportedly being disposed properly. This should alert us to the magnitude of the hazard that hospitals pose to our health and environment because of their irresponsible behaviour. Legislation on disposal of bio-medical effect came into existence in 1998. Still proper disposal of waste is an aberration rather than the norm.

Hospitals often complain that there are not enough CBMWTFs. If this is so, they should set up their own facilities. New hospitals should not be given licenses unless they have a clear plan/facilities for incineration and disposal of waste. Officials say that unlike polluting industries that are shut down for violating norms, they are unable to close errant hospitals. Some of the violators are  government entities. However, most of the violators are private hospitals. Hitting them where it hurts most — their profits — might prove effective. Names of hospitals that are violating the law should be publicised. The public should be made aware that patronising hospitals that that are lackadaisical about waste disposal is hazardous to their health. Hospitals that are not treating their toxic waste responsibly are not treating their patients or the public properly either.

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