Almost half of the hospitals and clinics in Khulna do not follow proper medical waste management system, putting city dwellers at risk of health hazards.
They do not have their own mechanisms to incinerate clinical waste, and usually dump unsorted garbage in street bins.
According to Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and Khulna City Corporation, the city has 205 clinics, hospitals, and diagnostic and pathology centres. Of them, 115 take services from Prodipan, an NGO, to dispose of the hazardous materials.
Only Khulna Medical College Hospital (KMCH), and BNS Upasham (Navy hospital) have their own waste disposal plants, said officials.
Anisur Rahman, conservancy officer of KCC, says over 4.5 tonnes of clinical waste are produced every day. Of those, Prodipan collects 3.44 tonnes from 115 out of 205 hospitals and clinics on a daily basis.
The rest of the waste are eventually mismanaged, contributing to health and environmental hazards eventually.
Stool, urine, blood, cough, bandages, syringes, needles, objects used in laboratories, medicine bottles, ingredients used in medical services and other disposable and non-disposable items are left with regular waste. In many cases, those are seen in open spaces beside roads, as dustbins overflow.
Amputated body parts are often seen there, creating a serious public nuisance.
The city corporation allocated 50 decimals of land to Prodipan at landfill in Rajbadh area outside the city for disposing of clinical waste.
During a recent visit there, this correspondent found waste collectors separating sharp objects from other waste. Under the system, all the waste were being dried in the sun, crushed and later burnt in incinerators.
Several street children were collecting syringes and other materials from toxic trash there.
Dr Rasheda Sultana, divisional health director of DGHS in Khulna, said they issued notices to all the medical service centres to set up the plants.
“Several clinic owners responded positively. Many have no clinical waste management policy yet,” she said.
Civil Surgeon ASM Abdur Razzak said there is an official order that every medical service centre must have waste disposal plant.
“If clinical waste is not managed properly, waste collectors, health workers and general people may be affected by various contagious diseases,” he said.
“Dumping of medical waste haphazardly, particularly in and around the hospitals, poses a serious health risk,” he added.
Ferdausur Rahman, executive director of Prodipan, said the government gave more emphasis to medical waste management in National Health Policy 2011.
“We are trying to persuade other medical service centres so that they come under the waste management system,” he said.
Dr SM Tushar Alom, consultant of transfusion medicine department of KMCH, said, “Patients and attendants may contract various diseases if infectious materials remain stockpiled at hospitals for a long time.”
“People may be affected by skin diseases, asthma, diarrhoea, allergies, eye irritation and even HIV,” Tushar said further.
The Department of Environment also issued letters to hospitals and clinics on October 11, 2018 to follow proper waste management systems on their own.
When asked about action, DoE Director in Khulna Habibul Hoq Khan said, “We are not able to conduct drives against mismanagement at every sector due to manpower shortage.”
If any hospital or clinic does not have incinerator, its licence is supposed to be cancelled, said Dr Rasheda Sultana.
In this regard, the divisional health director of DGHS said she is not aware of any such action, as she only took over the charge a month ago.
KCC Chief Executive Officer Palash Kanti Bala said, under an agreement between the city corporation and Prodipan, waste from all hospitals and clinics has to be disposed of by the NGO in exchange of fees.
The number of those not taking the service is very low, he claimed, mentioning financial issues as its reason. “When the situation gets worse, we fine them by conducting mobile courts,” he said. “We are also trying to make them aware.”
Hospital authorities seem to be reluctant to follow waste management system, said Mintu Mia, a social worker from Rupsha area. “They [hospital and clinic owners] are only busy making money,” said the 48-year-old. He emphasised strict action against them.
Ayesha Bibi, 63, from the same area, who went to a city clinic for treatment, did not see any garbage around it. “But there was malodor. I heard garbage kept inside are dumped on road and drain at night.”
“Dogs are involved in a tug-of-war for amputated parts of human body near my house,” said Debdulal Saha from Tutpara.
“There is nobody to monitor the situation. To whom will we say?” he said.
Similar comments came from NGO worker Israt Jahan, 56, and college student Rabiul Alam.
WHAT RULE VIOLATORS SAY
Several medical service providers who neither have incinerators nor take service from Prodipan tried to justify the mismanagement, when The Daily Star contacted them.
Jalal Mia, manager of Arafat Hospital on Shipyard intersection, said, “We sort out garbage and dump those properly in dustbins. We bury amputated body parts in the ground.”
For now, a waste disposal plant cannot be installed, he said, adding that they are trying to receive help from KCC.
Ismail Sheikh, one of four owners Ampathy Clinic in Sonadanga, said, “We manage waste properly. We didn’t set up the plant as we’re going to move to another location.”
One of three owners of Abdullah Pathology on Shamsur Rahman Road, seeking anonymity, said, “We’re willing but we’re unable. We don’t have enough space to set up the plant. Small amount of waste is produced here. We dump those in a way so that it cannot pollute environment.”
Similarly, an owner of Comfort Diagnostic and Consultant Centre in Goalkhali area said, “We sort out waste before dumping.”
However, this correspondent found unsorted medical waste in a dustbin right in front of the establishment.