by Dr Muattar Hanif
The heavy rainfall dimmed the city of lights, Karachi into never-ending chaos and hopelessness. As per recent reports, 26 people have lost their lives in the urban flooding and damage caused by the monsoon. With underpasses filled with water up to the brim and overspilled sewerage pipes showed the horrifying state of Karachi’s poor development and management system. The flood tramped over everything in its way and gushed into the residential areas. The exact figure to determine the loss is not yet confirmed, but the metropolis looked way ancient than the ruins of Moen jo Daro civilizations.
Hospital waste: A potential threat to health
While experts term many factors as the reason behind such mayhem of monsoon, one most poignant factor is solid waste that eventually leads to the clogging of pipes and drainage systems. Solid waste, of any sort, can be unsafe for people but it’s the hospital waste that is termed as the riskiest for humans. According to WHO, out of total medical waste, 15% is considered hazardous material that may be infectious, chemical, or radioactive.
COVID-19: Alleviating the risk of biomedical waste hazard
The pandemic of COVID-19 made medical waste and its disposal one of the top priorities around the world. Likewise in Pakistan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has strictly instructed all the hospitals of Pakistan dealing with coronavirus patients to ensure proper disposal of COVID-19 waste. In Karachi, hospitals were directed according to the guidelines issued under Section 6(1) of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act 2014 (SEPA Act 14), that every hospital owner, occupier, the operator shall be responsible for the management of hospital waste/handling of waste from COVID-19 patients generated by it till its final disposal following the provision of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act 2014 and its subsequent Hospital Waste Management Rules 2014.
The debate of hospital waste management: A never-ending controversy
But the question arises, are these guidelines for hospital waste management followed thoroughly? The answer to this is an ongoing and never-ending debate. When last year, Shaniera Akram’s video showing the hospital waste dumped wash ashore in Karachi went viral on social media, a new controversy began. Hospital authorities went head over heels to clarify how it was not their ‘hospitals’ dump.’ Close sources, however, revealed that many hospitals have no standard procedures to treat the waste. No one knows what happened to the waste and even the pandemic couldn’t change old habits. The careless attitude of hospital authorities has created the same fiasco, this time around, when many people complain of syringes, needles, and other medical waste ending up in their homes with the floodwater.
The ultimate cure
Pakistan’s many private and big government hospitals have their own incinerators. But, those hospitals or labs who don’t own one, should be in contact with the outside companies to ensure the proper disposal of waste. The Municipal Authorities should ensure that at the time of collection from the hospital wards, all medical waste should be completely sealed in bags and disposed of in an incinerator and the process is monitored by the hospital’s infection control committee.
It is only through an intelligent approach by the Solid Waste Management Board and municipalities that can ensure proper water flows into drainage pipes and prevent medical waste from becoming a total liability for the citizens. The proper disposal of hospital waste cannot completely eradicate the issue of urban flooding, but it surely can lessen the burden of misery on people to some extent.
-The writer is Assistant Editor at Dental News and can be reached at email@example.com