Grave hazards

With so many issues that dominate news headlines, the daily hazard that is caused by mismanagement of hospital waste is an issue that is often swept under the rug. A report in The Daily Star was published with a photo taken in front of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) emergency unit with used syringes, bandages, dressings, saline bags and many other medical waste littering the pavement.

The fact that hospital wastes require specific treatment and management, during separation, collection, storage, and transportation prior to their final disposal is hardly ever recognised. The report cited sources at the DMCH who said syndicate of hospital employees direct the cleaners to throw the garbage into those containers. The syndicate members are paid by the rag pickers, collecting recyclable waste from the trash container with bare hands and no masks. The rag-pickers then sell the reusable items to scrap dealers, later sold without sterilisation.

Hospital waste causes deadly infections and diseases including hepatitis B and hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and malaria. Infected syringes and scalpels could even cause terminal diseases like HIV/AIDS. The attitude of hospital authorities has traditionally been rather nonchalant, leading to serious public health consequences and also a significant adverse impact on the environment. As such, the Ministry of Health, the city corporations and the local and national government bodies have a role to play in ensuring that hospitals, both public and private, are held accountable for their actions.

With a rapid increase in the number of hospitals, clinics and diagnostic laboratories in all the major cities of the country, proper management of medical waste is becoming a matter of grave concern that must be appropriately addressed. We hope the gravity of the situation is aptly addressed.

Source: The Daily Star

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