Environmentalists concerned over non-functional hospital incinerators
ISLAMABAD: Environmentalists have expressed concerns over the non-functional incinerators in both public and private sector health facilities.
“All incinerators in hospitals, especially public sector health facilities, are either out of order or not burning hazardous waste properly. There is also no check from environment watchdogs if all hospital waste is finding its way to the only incineration facilities in Rawalpindi, the National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC),” said an official in the Ministry of Climate Change.
While solid hospital waste is still being disposed of properly to some extent, there is no mechanism in place to dispose of liquid waste that is being dumped by pathological labs and hospitals alike in the twin cities, he added.
The official said 100pc liquid hospital waste was being discharged into sewage pipelines. Waterborne diseases, even polio, can spread from sewage, especially when liquid hospital waste is discharged into it. “Incinerators cannot burn liquid waste,” the official explained.
Another environmentalist explained that when mixed with municipal waste solid waste contaminated the entire dump sites.
“And when municipal waste mixed with hospital waste is disposed of at rubbish sites, the leachate eventually contaminates the aquifer that is a major source of water supply for residents of Islamabad,” he said.
There are nearly 3,000 hospital beds in Islamabad that generate more than 7,500 kg of hospital waste per day (at 2.5kg waste per bed per day according to World Health Organisation and Health Services Academy Islamabad described criteria). As much as 20pc of all hospital waste is extremely hazardous and needs to be disposed of properly.
According to the environmentalists, roughly 1,000 to 2,000 kg waste was properly incinerated. The rest, most of it being mixed in municipal waste, is collected by scavengers for recycling purposes such as plastics, intravenous sets and syringes.
The Health Services Academy support the argument saying most of the hazardous hospital waste like syringes and plastics were being recycled due to improper hospital waste disposal systems, and were a likely cause of hepatitis among the citizens.
There are various types of medical waste. Among them are the biological categories such as human tissues, blood, body fluids, organs and other similar waste from surgeries, biopsies and autopsies that pose severe threat. Clinical waste includes dressing materials of infected or surgical wounds, disposable towels, gloves, broken hospital equipment, needles, syringes, scalpel blades, etc. Medical waste, especially biological substances can carry bacteria and viruses. Improper handling of these can expose people to numerous diseases.
However, Director General Ministry of Climate Change Irfan Tariq said: “There is no dedicated incineration facility to dispose of hazardous hospital waste. Hospital waste is being disposed of at the NCPC and the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-Epa) for now.”
He said the PC-I for a new incinerator had been prepared and was under review again after its cost of construction went up. The PC-I will be ready soon.