M A I N   N E W S

Used syringes dumped in open bins, recycled
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 23
Disposed of syringes are finding their way back to the markets.

In the absence of bio-medical waste’s proper disposal despite judicial pronouncements and rules promulgated by the Central Government, the syringes are being openly purchased by junk dealers from rag-pickers in Chandigarh for onward transmission to some of the manufacturers in Delhi and other places. In the process, they put the lives of so many patients to risk. Well, who is bothered about it?

Except for a few impressive private hospitals, a substantial number of “smaller” health-care institutes and nursing homes in and around the city pay little attention to the disposal of syringes. In fact, some of them do not even have effective system to safely dispose of the waste.

Fortunately, the disposal of syringes is proper in the two General Hospitals located in the city, besides the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER). Elsewhere, the needles are inserted in the cutter in the patient’s presence. No doubt about it. But the syringes are irresponsibly dumped in open bins.

“At most of the places even today, clinical and non-clinical wastes are collected and disposed of together without efforts to separate the two,” says a senior PGIMER doctor. “The hospital waste acts as a source of income for the rag-pickers since the syringes are often melted, moulded and recycled”.

A survey of the junk market in Dhanas village just behind the PGIMER reveals that the syringes can be purchased just by anyone at the cost of scrap plastic. In fact, loads of them are packed in sacks and forwarded to places like Delhi.

Giving details of the rules governing the disposal of syringes and other bio-medical waste, the sources in the UT Health Department reveal that the “Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules” were framed by the Central Government as early as 1998. The rules followed a Supreme Court verdict aimed at bringing to an end the problem of waste management.

A notification in this regard made it mandatory on the heath-care establishments to streamline the process of waste segregation, collection, treatment, and disposal. The establishments were also asked to install treatment facilities.

“However, the notification does not specify the authority entrusted with the task of monitoring the implementation of the rules. As such, enforcement is being carried out by the state pollution control boards all over the country,” the doctor says. “The only problem with the system is that the pollution control boards in most of the states, including Punjab, do not have adequate powers to enforce the rules.”

The implications can be perilous. “Proper disposal of hospital waste is of great importance as it is infectious and hazardous,” says the President of the PCMS Association, Dr Hardeep Singh. Quoting rough figures, he says, “It is estimated that one out of four kgs of waste generated in a hospital is infected.... The consequences of recycling the stuff would prove disastrous in the long run and pose serious threats to the entire community in the terms of infection and disease spreading.”

What the rules say

The rules make it mandatory for the hospital staff not only to cut the needle, but also the front portion of the syringe so as to prevent its recycling. The responsibility to do so vests with the health institute’s staff. It’s management has to make sure that the waste is not carried away by the rag-pickers.


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