September 8

Hospital waste entering homes: Study

[SEPTEMBER 08, 2002]
Bindu Shajan Perppadan

NEW DELHI SEPT. 7. This waste just refuses to go away. Carrying with it a host of diseases, it cruises from hospital dustbins to homes, when it should go nowhere other than the incinerators.

This is disclosed in a study carried out by Vatavaran, a NGO working on socio-environmental issues. The group studied the collection, segregation and disposal of hospital waste in the Capital and warned that "not all hospital waste make it to the incinerators. Often they find their way back to hospitals or more dangerously spill over into homes.''

The wastes are many -- bandages, soiled cotton, gloves, catheters, intravenous tubes, syringes and even discarded food. The study covered the waste disposal systems in 85 city hospitals, including All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Lok Nayak Jai Prakash, Ram Mahonar Lohia, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Sir Ganga Ram hospitals.

According to the report, bandages and soiled cotton waste from the hospitals never quiet make it to the incinerators. Waste managers in many hospitals sell these to rag markets at the rate of Rs. 2-3 per kg, which in turn is used to make quilts, states the report. Some reach Agra and Usmanpur where it is used for making durries which in turn resurface in the Capital markets.One can pick up these from the Yusuf Sarai Market.

Gloves, discarded after operations, are often stolen from the bin, washed and re-sold at Red Fort, Khanpur, Katwaria Sarai, , Masud Pur, Mangla Puri and Palam Gaon and later get used in hospitals, private nursing homes and even in private kitchens.

According to Iqbal Malik, director Vatavaran, "hospital waste going back into the hospital is dangerous, but what is worrying is the waste getting into homes of healthy people.''

``Instruments used in hospitals should not be reused -- bandages, soiled cotton, gloves and syringes are potential danger to people. Quilts made of hospital waste, carry with them germs -- causing skin infections and allergies.

``Hospital gloves often get used in the kitchen and in the garden. Recycled syringes are used by persons who are diabetic, or are being treated at home. We noted that 30-40 per cent waste gets incinerated the rest gets back into circulation.''

The `toxic' waste comes home despite the crores spent by the Government in the name of "streamlining the bio-waste management''. With eight new autoclaves (working capacity of ten hours a day), shredders from Canada valued at a few lakhs, 11 waste collection vans pushed into service by the Delhi Government for 620 hospitals and a fast approaching deadline , how hospital waste manages to trickle into homes is a mystery few want to look into.

Meanwhile, a court directed that by December 2002, all health care institutions have to have fail-safe methods of segregation, packing, transportation, storage and disposal place.