LAHORE: With just two incinerators in the whole city for the disposal of hazardous medical waste, many private and public hospitals are not disposing of waste properly, increasing the risk of diseases like hepatitis, The Express Tribune has learnt.
There is just one incinerator in government-run institutions, at Children’s Hospital, to dispose of hazardous waste from public hospitals. The second incinerator is in Shalamar Hospital and mostly caters to private sector hospitals. Experts say that these two incinerators are insufficient to meet the needs of a city of almost nine million people.
“Several other hospitals send their waste here for incineration. The incinerator runs at full capacity but it is still not enough,” said a doctor involved in managing the incinerator at Children’s Hospital
He said the Hospital Waste Management Rules (2005) made it obligatory for all public and private hospitals in Punjab to dispose of hazardous waste using an incinerator, but the government had not done enough to implement the law.
“Private hospitals can’t install incinerators because they are expensive,” said Dr Izhar Chaudhry, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA). “They cost around Rs40 million, which is more than the full budget of many hospitals. Lack of incinerators results in improper disposal of hazardous waste, which results in the spread of contagious diseases like hepatitis.”
Officials of the Environment Protection Department (EDP) said that a large number of hospitals didn’t dispose of their waste properly. “There are 200 cases pending with the environmental tribunal against hospitals for not disposing of hazardous waste properly, including Mayo Hospital, Jinnah Hospital and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. We have also fined many hospitals for not complying with HWM Rules 2005,” said EPD spokesman Naseemur Rehman.
He said that a hospital produced around five kilos of waste per patient per day, while some 25,000 patients visit public hospitals in Lahore every day. He said that hospital waste included infectious material that could cause a number of diseases.
Dr Chaudhry said the PMA had recommended to the government that incinerators be installed at all teaching public hospitals. “An authority can be established to regulate all incinerators. They could make a profit as private hospitals would be charged for incineration,” he said.
Health Department officials said that under the Hepatitis Control Programme, the Punjab government had recently established 17 incinerators in other districts. “Incinerators will be established in 17 more districts on an urgent basis. Once this is done we will decide about installing more incinerators in Lahore,” said a senior Health Department official.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2012.