The incinerator at MGM hospital in Sakchi on Sunday. (Animesh Sengupta)
Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College and Hospital in Sakchi, which treats several patients who are HIV-positive or have contagious diseases, is injecting back putrescible and potentially infectious biomedical waste into the environment.
If you ask why when the state-run facility supposedly has its own disposal machinery, the answer leads to a nauseating circle of apathy wherein the JSPCB has cancelled the hospital’s incinerator licence because it lacks a waste treatment facility and landfill site. In turn, the hospital is dumping placenta, amputated body parts, soiled bandages, syringes and needles on shallow land on the city’s fringes or along NH-33, the arterial link that connects Jamshedpur to Ranchi.
That JSPCB has axed MGM’s incineration permit came to the fore when hospital superintendent R.Y. Chowdhury responded on August 20 to a showcause on functional anomalies slapped by V.K. Tripathy, the principal secretary of health and family welfare.
The move follows a memorandum submitted by Jharkhand Human Rights Council, raising questions on irregularities and shortcomings at the government hospital, and threatening a demonstration there on August 25 (Monday).
One of the points that the rights council underscored was that MGM wasn’t disposing of biomedical waste in a proper manner.
In his reply, superintendent Chowdhury conceded that the JSPCB had not renewed their incinerator licence during an inspection a fortnight ago. “The JSPCB has rejected our request for licence renewal because we do not have a treatment plant and secure site for deep burial of hospital waste,” he said, adding that they had promised compliance to biomedical waste handling and management guidelines and requested special permit until then.
JSPCB regional officer R.N. Chowdhury confirmed that MGM’s incinerator licence had been revoked for the said reasons. “We will recommend renewal of permit only when the hospital sets up a waste treatment facility and dedicates a secure landfill site for disposal of infectious waste,” he said.
So, until then, what happens to the 50kg waste, at least 15 per cent of it hazardous, generated by the hospital every day? “We are disposing of our refuse at a safe distance away from the city,” the MGM superintendent insisted.
Hospital insiders claim that biomedical waste is being dumped along NH-33 and sometimes even on open land near the steel city.
Biomedical waste segregation rules make colour coding and labelling mandatory, a practice rarely followed at MGM or any other state-run hospital in Jharkhand for that matter.
Yellow plastic bags are meant for human anatomical waste (tissues, organs, body parts), which need deep burial after incineration.
Red plastic or disinfected containers must set aside microbiology and biotechnology waste (laboratory cultures, specimens and devices used for them) that require autoclaving or chemical treatment. Red also marks solid waste (items contaminated with blood and body fluids including cotton, dressings, plaster).
Sharps such as needles, lancets, scalpels, glass etc. must be segregated into a rigid blue or white containers. These along with waste like tubes, catheters and IV bags must be disposed by a sequence of autoclaving/microwaving, chemical treatment, destruction and shredding.
Black plastic bag is needed for discarded medicines and cytotoxic drugs, incineration ash and chemical waste meant for disposal in secured landfill.
President of the rights council Manoj Mishra blamed the hospital for putting lives at peril. “Currently, six persons who are HIV-positive are admitted to MGM. While it has cancelled the incinerator licence, the JSPCB should also monitor where and how the hospital is getting rid of its rubbish,” Mishra said.