Hospitals causing ground, air pollution
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) has said hospitals are inadequately disposing of their hazardous waste and burning them in the open.
“Whether it is the Federal Government Tuberculosis Centre at Asghar Mall in Rawalpindi which buries the sputum of patients in the ground, Capital Hospital of the CDA, which releases emissions by burning its waste in an obsolete incinerator or Shifa Hospital at H-8 which buries the incinerated waste in an inadequate pit, all are causing ground and air pollution,” Pak-EPA informed the Environment Commission last week.
Dozens of pathological labs, clinics and small hospitals have come up in commercial plazas, from one end of Blue Area to the other. Most of these health facilities have no waste management standard operating procedures (SOPs). The few that do try to manage their waste have poor and insufficient criteria in disposing of dangerous throwaway, added an official of Pak-EPA.
Over the years, hospital waste management (HWM) has emerged as one of the major environmental hazards in the federal capital. Realising the issue, Pak-EPA undertook a survey and collected data from more than 60 hospitals, pathological laboratories and clinics about their practices.
Pak-EPA says scores of labs, clinics and small hospitals set up in commercial plazas have no waste management SOPs
The environment body found all hospitals mixing hazardous waste with the municipal waste. More than half of such health facilities with poor hospital waste management SOPs were served with notices.
According to the official, hazardous hospital waste included human specimens, contaminated instruments, infectious tissues, chemicals and infectious waste generated by patients.
“Every day, some of this dangerous waste is mixed with municipal waste. Some makes it to the only proper incineration facility – National Cleaner Production Center in Rawalpindi. The rest is disposed of in CDA’s garbage dump sites where humans come into direct contact with it,” said the official.
He said burying the hospital waste in inadequate pits would eventually contaminate the aquifer where residents mostly drew drinking water from.
In its report, Pak-EPA informed the commission that some hospitals had developed their own waste disposal systems that did not follow set rules and regulations.
“The major issue is with small private hospitals, pathological labs and clinics which have no understanding and concept of handling the infectious waste,” the report said, adding: “Private hospitals and clinics have commercial considerations and, therefore, cut on the waste management costs. On the other hand, public hospitals have budgetary constraints.”
The environment watchdog suggested to the commission to make the hospital waste management rules 2005 mandatory for all health facilities.
It also suggested that the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) may ensure that every health facility applying for registration had an environmental approval from Pak-EPA.
Establishing a centralised facility for disposal of infectious waste away from human settlement and shutting down all incinerators within residential areas besides treatment of infectious liquid waste before discharging it in municipal sewage system were also among the suggestions.