• Thursday, Aug 05, 2021
  • Last Update : 01:52 am

Covid-19: Infectious healthcare wastes turning hazardous

  • Published at 02:30 pm September 14th, 2020
Medical waste
File photo of a waste management worker Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Coronavirus-related wastes are now being generated largely outside healthcare establishments

Healthcare wastes, including PPE-related ones, are now posing a serious threat to public health and the environment as such wastes generated outside hospitals and clinics remain out of proper disposal management across the country during this pandemic.

Moreover, there is also a lacking in proper management for biomedical wastes generated by healthcare establishments in many areas of the country since well-equipped medical waste management plants are only there in Dhaka, Sylhet, Rangpur and Rajshahi and a small plant in Jessore.

Coronavirus-related wastes are now being generated largely outside healthcare establishments due to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), including face-masks, gloves and sanitizer containers, which mostly remain untreated before disposal.

The experts stressed the need for proper management of the healthcare wastes generated both inside and outside the healthcare establishments for the sake of the public health and environment.

Muzaherul Huq, former regional advisor for South East Asia at World Health Organisation (WHO), said the healthcare wastes should completely be segregated from other household wastes to manage these separately as it poses a serious threat to public health.

“Domestic healthcare wastes are being mixed with other household wastes, which is very alarming,” he said adding that the government must have a strategy to implement its plan in this regard like many other countries.

Dumping healthcare wastes with other household wastes aggregates the spread of Covid-19 and other virus-led diseases, he said, adding that the government should introduce a functional healthcare waste management across the country.

Environmentalist Dr MA Matin said the picture of the country’s medical waste management has been gloomy as household healthcare wastes are not managed safely rather dumped with other wastes.  Besides, medical wastes generated in hospitals and clinics in some major cities are also not treated properly, he said.

MA Matin, also vice-president of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), said household healthcare wastes are safely managed in many countries. Such wastes are segregated from other household wastes at the sources, he added. 

Medical waste piled up to be disposed in a local dustbin | Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Air Commodore Md Badrul Amin, chief waste management officer of DSCC said also admitted that it is not possible to segregate the healthcare wastes from household wastes yet. 

“It’ll take time (to go for treatment of domestic healthcare wastes),” he said.

In the capital, PRISM Bangladesh Foundation has been treating the medical wastes since 2006 following an agreement signed with the then Dhaka City Corporation. But, medical wastes created outside the healthcare establishments remain out of its collection chain.

Now, PRISM continues to remain in the medical waste management following agreements signed with Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC). The agreements are renewed after every six years.

“We collect the biomedical wastes from some 950 healthcare establishments like hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres, to treat these at the Medical Waste Management Plant in Matuail landfill site,” said Mazharul Islam, coordinator for medical waste management program of PRISM Bangladesh.

The foundation collects over six tons of wastes from the capital’s healthcare establishments a day, which was some 10-11 tons during pre-Covid-19 period, he said, adding that the collection of medical wastes is on the rise again.

Following the outbreak of the Covid-19, DNCC authorities asked city dwellers to store their used PPEs in polybags to manage these through PRISM. However, the amount of such wastes collected from households remained very insignificant, said Mazharul.

During Wari lockdown, PRISM also collected medical wastes from the area and treated them before disposal, he said.

The medical wastes collected were segregated and kept in red, yellow and green bins considering the types of the wastes. Then PRISM collects the wastes by its 11 covered vans.

The Matuail plant was the lone well-equipped medical waste management plant with incinerator till 2018 in the country. 

Later, three more well-equipped plants were set up in Sylhet, Rangpur and Rajshahi. Besides, there is a small plant having only an auto-clave in Jessore. All the plants are run by PRISM Bangladesh, he said.

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