Hospitals need to modernize their waste management systems
We should not underestimate the importance of sustainable medical waste management.
In the majority of public and private hospitals, there are no systematic approaches to medical waste disposal; in Mymensingh, the rapid increase in the number of hospitals, clinics, diagnostic laboratories, etc exerts a tremendous impact on human health ecology.
A study was conducted in some selected Health Care Establishments (HCEs) of Ishwarganj upazila under Mymensingh District.
The scenario of medical waste management in different types and categories of hospitals is not satisfactory -- most hospitals are polluting the environment with toxic substances and contributing to the public health problem.
About 5% of the total population in Bangladesh is thought to suffer from chronic Hepatitis B infection. Most of the clinical wastes -- syringes, needles, saline drips, discarded food, gauze, vials, and ampoules are collected by women and children who re-sell them despite the deadly health risks.
The research focuses on generation, and the existing management system, of medical wastes in hospitals and diagnostic centres in Ishwarganj upazila. The level of awareness on medical waste is somewhat there, but they are not able to manage the waste systematically due to the lack of systems, rules and regulations, and financial support.
In the studied HCEs, a total of 73 respondents provided their opinions about existing disposal place of waste in the collection system. Among them, half of the total respondents preferred to dispose their waste in open dumping at Kachamatia river site and 22 respondents -- 30.14% -- in pits.
Eight preferred to dispose of their waste in the municipal dustbin. The other six respondents preferred to dispose of their waste in others.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) and Family Welfare (FW) has already started to address medical waste management as one of the priority programs by including it as one of the critical areas.
We need to raise awareness and educate people on medical waste issues; segregation of medical waste should be done at the point of generation. Different coloured bags should be used for collection of hazardous and non-hazardous waste, modem techniques and devices such as moving dustbins, cranes, separate collection system bins etc should be used in the hospital waste management system.
To avoid the risk of adverse health effect from the waste, on-site incineration of the entire hospital waste with appropriate air pollution controls is the best available means of processing prior to disposal.
Reuse, reduce, recycle: This should be followed to minimize the generation of medical waste, including good housekeeping, replacement of chemicals, etc. Training programs on the safe handling of medical waste can be organized for medical staff.
The government should promulgate and implement laws and regulations regarding medical waste management, and a strong monitoring system should be developed to monitor the whole system.
Shishir Reza is an Environmental Analyst, Bangladesh Economic Association. Sharmin Akter is an Urban Planner, Bangladesh Institute of Planners.