Report reveals how untreated hospital waste is endangering New Delhi


By Neetu Chandra

Government hospitals in the Capital are turning a blind eye to the hazards of bio-medical waste by either casually dumping the untreated waste despite expensive incinerators installed at the hospital or outsourcing the work to private agencies.

A report released by the directorate of health services has revealed that the biomedical waste treatment facilities at these hospitals lie unused or underutilised with the work outsourced to private agencies with little or no monitoring of how the hazardous waste is processed.

The report revealed that major hospitals such as Lok Nayak, Guru Teg Bahadur, G.B. Pant and Deen Dayal Upadhyay have failed to comply with the waste management norms despite expensive incinerators installed in the hospitals.

Incineration is a waste treatment process that involves the combustion of hazardous organic substances contained in waste materials. Hospital waste is hazardous because of the presence of chemicals from medications, solutions, or strains of TB, Hepatitis B and C. Doctors say the pathogens can be harmful for humans as they can be ingested or inhaled and absorbed through skin openings.

The report also reveals that in the past five years five major government hospitals – Rao Tula Ram hospital, Rajan Babu Institute for Pulmonary Medicine and Tuberculosis, Palika Maternity Hospital, Lodhi Colony, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and National Institute of Immunology – have shut down their incinerators owing to technical reasons.

A visit to Lok Nayak hospital by Mail Today revealed that the hospital is dumping needles, syringes, glucose bottles and blood bags inside the premises where the entry is restricted to the employees.

Similar is the case with GTB and DDU Hospital which fail to segregate the hazardous chemical waste and outsource it to a private agency.’The condition in government hospitals is pathetic. Setting up an incinerator costs around `2 crore so the hospitals hire other companies to treat their waste. They have outsourced the facilities which is causing losses to the government,’ an official of the directorate of health services said.

‘These hospitals throw out the waste without segregating it for the private companies to pick up which is generally done by rag pickers and scrap dealers. There is no proof that these agencies are treating the waste properly,’ the official added.

Dumped: These disposable syringes and plasitc tubes were found in a garbage dump outside one city hospital

But the DDU hospital which has an incinerator installed claims that the unit was shut down because of the emissions.

‘The incinerator was proving hazardous due to its emissions so we stopped it. We started giving it to a private agency authorised by the government. We have autoclaves for the treatment of plastics in the waste,’ DDU medical superintendent Dr Promila Gupta said.

The directorate’s findings have been endorsed in a separate report released by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) which says that in the past five years the number of functioning incinerators have come down from 67 to ten.

The report attributes this to lack of proper maintenance and monitoring as the prime reason for the shutting down of the waste processing units which cost more than `2 crore to install.

‘To control pollution and for an efficient waste management, hospitals with 50 beds or more have been directed by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to install solar water heating and rain water harvesting systems as well as incinerators,’ the report said.

The hospitals with 50 or more beds that do not have incinerators are flouting the Bio Medical Waste (Management & handling) Rules, 1998.

The report said the DPCC has issued public notices to several hospitals for flouting the waste disposal guidelines.

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