Thursday, May 18, 2000,
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Haryana main medical waste supplier
From Raman Mohan

HISAR, May 17 Haryana is fast emerging as the biggest supplier of medical waste to the underground industry that recycles disposable syringes and intravenous sets. Interestingly, it is also the biggest consumer of recycled medical waste.

Most urban areas in the state have seen proliferation of health facilities during the past few years which has led to an abundance of disposable medical waste. During raids in Delhi last week, it was found that illegal units recycling syringes and IV sets were getting supplies from Haryana. In fact, two truckloads of the material arrived there from a neighbouring Haryana district even as the raid was in progress. Interestingly, the repacked material was also meant for sale in the state.

It is learnt that the syringes and IV sets are washed in a soap solution and sundried before being repacked, exposing the end user to serious infections such as AIDS and Hepatitis-B. The total cost of the recycling process is less than half the market price of the equipment.

Inquiries reveal that a nexus exists between Class IV staff of the government as well as private hospitals and kabaris who help maintain a regular supply of these materials to the illegal industry in Delhi which in turn sends these back into the market. Inside sources say the staff of big nursing homes as well as government hospitals responsible for collecting and disposing of medical waste are on the regular payroll of the kabaris.

They not only collect the waste, but also ensure that the incinerators installed in civil hospitals a few years ago for safe disposal of medical waste are not run at all or at least not regularly. The incinerators were installed under a World Bank scheme. These were to be used for the safe disposal of medical waste both from government as well as private nursing homes.

A visit to the local Civil Hospital today lent credence to these reports. the incinerator had consumed merely 373 units of power since its installation several years ago, indicating that the equipment has not been in regular use. Officials said on conditions of anonymity that there was neither any fund for paying power bills nor trained staff to operate it. Inquiries from other districts revealed the same story.

It is reliably learnt that the class IV staff had pressurised their seniors to sleep over a government directive that private nursing homes be asked to send their waste to them for disposal through incineration. Inquiries from private nursing homes revealed that they had been sent any such communication.

In fact, Dr Inderjit, president of the district branch of the Indian Medical Association, said doctors were prepared to pay for the service according to the quantity of their waste but their pleas to the district authorities had fallen on deaf ears. Another leading local physician, Dr N.K. Khetarpaul, denied receiving any communication on waste disposal from the health authorities.

The other equally dangerous aspect of the racket is the disposal in the open of other medical waste such as blood, secretions, amputated body parts, body fluids and placenta. While the plastic waste is collected by the staff and sold to kabaris, they have little use for these waste products, which are simply dumped in open spaces in the vicinity of hospitals.

Although bigger towns are the main source of supply of used material to the illegal industry, it is learnt that recycled syringes and IV sets are sold mainly in smaller towns and villages.

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