Faulty incinerator at HMC spreads misery, disease

Medical waste accumulates in hospital compound, increasing risk of deadly diseases

Sharps and other medical waste at HMC. PHOTO: MAHWISH QAYYUM/EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: An empty compound in Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) is becoming a perfect breeding ground for spreading different diseases such as HIV.

The hospital’s waste incinerator machine is out of order, resulting in accumulation of the waste inside the hospital premises.

Talking to The Express Tribune, HMC Deputy Medical Superintendent Dr Muhammad Razzaq disclosed the incinerator has been dysfunctional since 2012. He said the existing incinerator, with a capacity of 50 kilogrammes, was installed in 2000 at HMC.

The incinerator is double chambered, with two burners and as many air blowers, he added. He said because of the broken incinerator, infectious medical waste of the hospital is dispatched to Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) for proper disposal.

However, a visit to the site revealed that medical waste was being dumped in an open area of the hospital, adjacent to the nursing hostel. This is creating environmental and health hazards for the community. A source, requesting anonymity, said, “Drug addicts, scavengers and even Class-IV employees of the hospital come to this ground and steal these syringes and other medical equipment to sell or use themselves.”

The polluted ground speaks volumes about the negligence of officials of health care facilities and health emergency.

The provincial health department data states there are 16,000 AIDS virus carriers are registered in K-P, out of which around 1,500 patients are registered at HMC. As per the data, 27.2% of the registered patients were infected while sharing syringes.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) website, an estimated 16 billion injections are administered worldwide every year. However, not all of these used syringes and needles are disposed of properly. The health care waste such as sharps, chemicals, blood and others can infect hospital patients, health care workers and the public.

Developing countries generate an average of 0.2 kg of hazardous hospital waste per hospital bed in a day, the website said. On top of that, health-care waste is hardly ever sorted into hazardous or non-hazardous waste, making the quantity of hazardous waste much higher.

WHO also asserted that scavenging at waste disposal sites and the manual sorting of hazardous waste from health care establishments contribute to the spread of diseases. “The waste handlers are at immediate risk of needle injuries and exposure to toxic or infectious materials,” the website said.

Medical experts say poor and improper medical waste management contributes to the spread. According to the Environment Protection Department of Punjab, around 5.2 million people, including four million children, die every year because of mismanagement of hospital waste.

The hospital administration is currently investing in a new incinerator expected to be installed in about three months.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2015.


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