Untreated syringes find a way back to markets

KOLKATA, 11 SEPT: Be careful and check twice before your loved one is administered an injection in any medical facility as there is a high possibility that they may be injected with used and untreated syringes that are often repacked and sold in city market.
According to a project report ~ Bio-medical Waste: Inventory and Status of Management in West Bengal ~ prepared jointly by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) and Direct Initiative for Social and Health Action (Disha), only 28 per cent of bio-medical waste is being treated as most of the healthcare units are yet to be incorporated in the management regime for the bio-medical waste.
This indicates that the untreated recyclable waste, including syringes, find their way back to the city markets.
After the introduction of the Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998 for safe and proper treatment and disposal of bio-medical waste, several privately-owned common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facilities (CBWTF) in compliance with the Rules have come up. But apart from Kolkata and Howrah, most of the health care units were out of waste management regime till 2007.
“A large amount of medical waste is being directly salvaged particularly from government hospitals with the connivance of a section of government employees and so they do not reach the treatment facilities. There is no mechanism to restrict this,” said Mr Sasanka Dev, project director, Disha.
Apart from raising health concerns, the government has to suffer a huge loss as the payment is to be made to the central treatment facilities on the basis of bed occupancy and not on the amount of waste handed over, he added.
The data of 2009 from only three units of SembRamky (biomedical waste treatment facilities) in Howrah, Burdwan and Kalyani was examined and it was found that only 13 per cent, five per cent and 14 per cent respectively of recyclable bio-medical waste is being treated in the common facilities. The data clearly reveals that when proportion of recyclable bio-medical waste generated is 45 per cent of the total bio-medical wastes, the proportion that comes for treatment to the treatment facility is too less.
This shows that rampant salvaging is common in the healthcare units from where untreated recyclables are directly going into the hands of recycling traders. One such case had come into light last year when WBPCB had lodged an FIR against a person who operated an illegal bio-medical waste dump yard in Chowbaga, South 24-Parganas and used to sell the waste from several big and reputed private hospitals and nursing homes of the city as plastic scrap to another trader.
The project report stated that though the infrastructure for treatment of bio-medical waste in the state is almost adequate and highest authorities including monitoring body are waking up to the issue, overall status of in-house management of bio-medical waste in the heathcare units especially which are owned by government or municipalities, are not at all up to the mark. Mixing of bio-medical waste with general waste and non-incinerable waste with incinerable waste is rampant.
Also, it was found during the study that in several healthcare units, bio-medical waste was erroneously segregated and process of treatment as stipulated in the rules were violated.

Soma Basu

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