By Shoaib Ahmed, Daily Times Pakistan
LAHORE-- The major public and private hospitals and laboratories
in the city produce three tonnes of waste every day. Most of this,
75 percent, comes from government hospitals and is dumped into
city government containers, putting citizens at risk of diseases
such as diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, malaria,
the plague, skin diseases and HIV (AIDS), according to a city
government report on hospital waste management.
“There are no proper measures taken for the safe disposal
of hospital waste. It is just dumped into district government
containers,” sources in the city government said.
According to the report, made available to Daily Times, of the
115 hospitals and laboratories surveyed, only 30 hospitals and
seven laboratories get their waste incinerated, through Shalimar
Hospital. The rest do not have access to an incinerator and dump
their hospital waste in solid waste management (SWM) containers.
The sources said none of the government hospital has proper collection,
storage or disposable facilities. There is also concern that costly
apparatus meant to be used once is sometimes reused.“Orthopaedic
implants and dental implants sometimes get picked up by unscrupulous
doctors and are subsequently sold to people looking for a bargain,”
the sources said.
Another problem is that much of the waste is plastic, such as
tubes and syringes, that are picked up by rubbish scavengers from
SWM dumping sites
and sold on. According to the report, the dumping site at Shahdara,
Farukhabad is the main site for the sale of hospital waste, with
each container fetching Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000.
The report names one Gulzar, alias Kalu Changar, as the main
buyer and says
that drivers and sanitary staff are involved in the selling. Kalu
Changar allegedly segregates the waste and sells it on to various
parties for various purposes. The buyers send the waste for reuse,
repacking and recycling. The main plastic recycling site is at
Bara Sari Road, Shahdara.
Drug addicts often buy or sometimes steal used syringes Scavenger
birds, animals and insects can transfer infections from waste
to human beings. Waste is also dumped into the Ravi, leading to
contaminated river water that causes diseases in humans and animals.
According to the report, there are other places where hospital
waste is dumped with municipal waste, which is damaging to the
environment and public health. These places include Nishter Town,
Ravi Town, Allama Iqabl Town, Gowala Colony, the Mahmood Booti
dumping site, Data Gunj Baksh Town, Shalimar Town, Aziz Bhatti
Town and Padri village, Barki.
According to a study done by a Shalimar Hospital official later
submitted to the city government, an average Pakistani uses five
disposable syringes per year, making a demand of about 750 million
syringes. The study says Pakistan imports 250 million syringes
and 500 million syringes are produced locally in “suspect
condition”. “Most of these 500 million disposable
syringes are of dubious origin and used in rural areas,”
a source said quoting the report.
The city government is soon to submit proposals on better hospital
waste management to the chief minister. The recommendations will
include that hospital waste should be documented and weighed and
its disposal must be supervised by hospital committees of three
or more people. The disposal of hospital waste in SWM containers
should be banned. The Ministry of Health should order hospitals,
labs and clinics to incinerate their waste.
However, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) opposes the use
of incinerators. According to a WWF report sent to the environment
secretary, Pakistan in December 2001 signed the Stockholm Convention
on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
The convention seeks to eradicate twelve of the most virulent
pollutants on earth, including four that are key contaminants
in incinerator emissions. The convention has branded incinerators
as a primary source of dioxins, the most toxic human-made substance
known to science with no known safe level of exposure. Studies
have shown that dioxin causes cancer, decreased fertility, birth
defects, disrupted sexual development and leads to IQ deficits.
It can also create behavioural disorders and damage the immune
The WWF says the most important component of waste disposal is
Imposing segregated practices within hospitals to separate biological
and chemical hazardous waste will result in a clean solid waste
stream, which can be recycled easily. If proper segregation is
achieved through training, clear standards and through enforcement,
then resources can be turned to the management of the small portion
of the waste stream needing special treatment. “We need
to focus on process, not on technology,” says a WWF report.
It says that only 10-15 percent of hospital waste needs special
Article from http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_8-7-2004_pg7_19