Faisalabad - Living in a cleaner and healthy environment is right of every citizen and nature has bestowed mankind with ample bounties to avail this facility.

Fresh water brooks and streams, running rivers, waterfalls, forests, wetlands, vegetation, eco-system and snow covered mountain peaks are all gifts of nature for human being in a balanced scheme, to live a healthy life.

But, over the decades, massive human activity in different sectors in the name of development created an imbalance in nature’s scheme badly affecting air and water quality and solid waste generation including the hospital waste.

This tendency of improper disposal of hospital waste has often been a challenge in developing countries like Pakistan where people usually shy away from abiding by health code and environmental laws.

Therefore the citizens, especially of mega cities are more prone to hospital waste related health hazards and Faisalabad is not an exception to this phenomenon. An abode to around four million people, the city generates 1600 tone solid waste daily including the hospital waste that is dumped untreated or thrown in open, exposing the resident of this third largest city of the country to serious health hazards.

As large number of private hospitals, clinics, labs and dispensaries are in this habit over the years to utter neglect of waste disposal code and law in vogue thus resulting in spread of infectious diseases.

Other than the main city health settlements, there are 16 Rural Health Centres in the district including one in Tehsil Chak Jhumra, two in Tehsil Sadar, four each in Tehsil Samundri and Jaranwala and five in Tehsil Tandlianwala.

According to official statistics, four teaching hospitals are working in main city with six Tahsil Headquarters (THQ) Hospitals and 167 Basic Health Units (BHUs) across the district besides five major private sector hospitals and large number of labs and clinic where hundreds of thousands patients visit daily.

These settlements generate hundreds of kilogram clinical waste daily, major chunk of which is either dumped untreated or thrown in the open.

“We have 19 incinerators installed in different parts of the district for hospital waste disposal in a safer manner,” said spokesperson of Health Department Muhammad Mudassar. “But, this number of incinerators was insufficient to treat entire clinical waste.”

He said most of private hospitals, clinics, dispensaries and laboratories often throw clinical waste in open as an easy way of its disposal.

“But, this is harmful and the government should strictly make them abide by health regulations and install incinerators. Otherwise they should be heavily fined and their facilities should be sealed,” he recommended.

He said this is apathy that hospitals earning billions of rupees annually were not inclined to install incinerators or taking their waste to nearby incinerator for proper disposal.

Dr. Shujaud Din, another health expert also had identical views as cited the capacity of installed incinerators as insufficient to treat that much waste.

“How come that just 19 incinerators could be enough to treat clinical waste of the third largest city of the country that hosts around four million people,” he said. “Therefore, it was imperative to make management of health settlements to abide by health rules and regulations in segregation, collection, storage, transportation and treatment of clinical waste.”

Clinical waste mostly comprising used syringes, needles, intravenous sets, broken vials, ampoules, scalpels, blades, human body parts, saws, dressing, bandages, gauze, blood, cotton, gloves, masks, thermometers, blood pressure gauges, medicines, glasses, dishes, slides, cover slips, gases and plastic material.

Burning this waste in an incinerator ensures that no toxic gas is emitted to pollute the environment and affect human health. But, when it is not disposed of properly, it could transmit various contagious diseases like hepatitis, HIV, cancer, bronchitis, asthma and skin irritation etc.

When contacted to comment on this situation, Deputy Director Environment Protection Department Farhat Abbas Kamoka admitted that only 19 incinerators were installed in the city to dispose of clinical waste. Out of these, one incinerator was out-of-order, three were under up-gradation process and remaining were fully functional.

“Our teams remain active in the field and regularly visit hospitals and clinics across to monitor disposal of clinical waste,” he said.

Kamoka said hundreds of kilograms clinical waste is treated daily at three major government hospitals including Allied Hospital, District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital and Government General Hospital Ghulam Muhammad Abad (GMA).

“Waste disposal capacity of incinerator in General Hospital GMA was 55-60 kilograms per hour and it was functioning at full capacity,” he added.

Similarly, he informed that disposal capacity of DHQ Hospital incinerator was 50 kg per hour and it was disposing of 350kg clinical waste daily. “It is a double-chamber incinerator and is now being upgraded to quadruple chambers to enhance its capacity.”

Similarly, the Allied Hospital incinerator was also working to its full capacity of disposing of 120kg waste per hour. “This plant treats 450 to 500kg clinical waste daily as incinerators at government hospitals are also used for disposal of private hospitals waste.”

Although authorities claim to be on toes to deal with this dilemma, still there are issues of proper implementation of health code and the provincial authorities must take cognizance of situation to avoid any outbreak of diseases.