Lahore - A hospital is a place, which provides relief to ailing people from pain and suffering, but hospitals are not serving this purpose anymore as they have been in the headlines for long due to their sorry state of affairs.

Recent reports that hospital waste is being recycled into toys and other stuff for children triggered panic among people. Although the authorities are reported to have seized a big cache of hospital waste, no major breakthrough has been made so far to bring the culprits to justice.

A weak surveillance system has allowed hospitals to continue with hazardous practices, exposing people to infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. Infections are very much a threat to people visiting hospitals, as well as medics and other staffers.

Former interior minister Rehman Malik in his June 24 comment suggested making a law to discipline use of medical instruments and enforce a complete ban on reuse of syringes.

Children unsafe as hospital waste recycling goes unabated

The ex-minister admitted that hospitals lack necessary facilities to keep things as clean as they should be, though his write-up was deemed as a bid to defend PPP over spread of HIV/AIDS in Sindh. He cited large-scale medical malpractices like reuse of syringes and unsterilised medical tools as reasons for spread of infectious diseases.

Last year, failure to maintain minimum service delivery standards like decontamination of equipment, disposal of medical waste etc resulted in closure of operation theatres of major hospitals in Punjab’s capital Lahore.

A visit to one of the major public hospitals exposes waste mismanagement. Services Hospital of Lahore bustles with patients. Its walls are smeared with dirt and a complaint can be written in the dust on the windowsill. A meeting with the MS is no different than meeting an SHO.

“Sir is on the round” is a pack of clichés that a visitor gets after fulfilling legal ‘formalities’ to meet the head of the facility.

Although private hospitals have cleanliness systems of their own and their MS are accessible, the private waste company allegedly misused waste.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) exposed Ali Traders Waste Management Company for misusing hospital waste. Officials of the Environment Protection Department were also named in the case. AT Waste Management Company, Kasur has been doing the business since 2012.

Last month, the PED, the district administration and the Metropolitan Corporation launched a joint operation and seized four factories making toys from hospital waste. The top brass of the district administration took part in the operation and pledged to complete the task at all costs. “We are identifying all people involved in this crime,” it was said.

“We will bring criminals to book; we are on it,” it was said.

A few weeks later, another story titled ‘Hospital waste being recycled into toys, crockery’ exposed the pinky promises of the top babus.

According to officials, EPD lacks manpower to act effectively as it has just five environment inspectors in the city where scores of small and big recycling plants are working. The LWMC says it is responsible for lifting just 2.5 tonnes of waste collected from four hospitals on a daily basis and it fulfils its responsibility well.

                     –The writers are cub reporters