Nasty needles: Hospitals sweeping waste under the rug

Pims incinerator dysfunctional since 2008, pays Rs9 million every year for ‘hired help’.

Qamar Zaman May 05, 2014
The incinerator at Pims has been out-of-order for the last five years. DESIGN: MUNIRA ABBAS


The Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (PAK-EPA) Monday informed a parliamentary panel that it had issued notices to over a dozen hospitals in the federal capital for lacking proper arrangements to dispose of medical waste but did not get a single answer.

Those issued notices, according to the EPA Chairman Dr Muhammad Khursheed, included the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims), Polyclinic Hospital, Kahuta Research Laboratory Hospital, Capital Hospital, Ali Medical Centre, Shifa International Hospital, National Institute of Health, Kalsoom International and Islamic International Hospital.

The issue came under discussion when Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat asked about the installation of incinerators in Pims.

The committee directed the agency to map the hospitals, both public and private, in the federal capital and submit a report on June 9.

The Pims representative informed the committee about the process of bidding for installation of an incinerator, but could not satisfy the inquisitive senators.

The incinerator at Pims has been out-of-order for the last five years. Since 2009, the National Cleaner Production Center [NCPC], Morgah was doing the job for it. Pims produce up to 200kg of medical waste every single day and NCPC was charging Rs 23 per kg, costing the hospital over Rs9 million every year.

“It is alarming that Pims does not have its own incinerator,” said Senator Sughra Imam.

“The absence of incinerators and hazardous waste disposal systems at hospitals is a threat to public health and an example of criminal negligence,” said Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Secretary Faridullah Khan.

Khan said nothing but bureaucratic hurdles are the in the way of solving this problem. “This is a sad commentary on the way public service is done in this country,” he lamented.

However, he said that a cheap and fast solution was found, for which the PIMS had invited bids.

“With limited funds of Rs6 million, we can only get a local incinerator,” said Pims spokesperson Dr Ayesha Esani while briefing the committee.

On concerns about the quality of the equipment, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University Vice Chancellor Professor Javed Akram responded, “We have budgetary constraints and cannot wait till funds are increased.”

The CADD secretary said that “Pims be allowed to go ahead with its bidding [on the condition that] the EPA [sits] on the committee with veto power.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2014.


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