#Dishonest hospital staff involved in illegal practice
#Experts warn public health hazards
Infectious medical waste carrying viruses of different fatal diseases is making their way to the black market due to a nexus between hospital employees and traders, posing serious health concern.
Medical waste, including used syringes, blood bags, cannulas and catheters, containing poison of cancer, AIDS and hepatitis diseases are being sold out to black marketeers for lack of monitoring by the authorities concerned, spreading such deadly bugs among people.
Executive Director of PRISM Bangladesh Foundation Khondkar Anisur Rahman told the Daily Sun that they have been given the responsibility to collect and dispose of medical waste as per the contracts with hospitals but they do not get any used syringes and saline bottles from most of the government hospitals as dishonest staff sell those to black marketeers.
“When we asked for the waste, staff of the hospitals attacked our waste collectors many times. The authorities of the hospitals and the DGHS are aware of the black marketing of the waste. We’ve discussed the matter with the people concerned many times but all went in vain,” he said.
PRISM Bangladesh Foundation has agreements with some 1,100 hospitals and clinics in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Gazipur to collect and dispose of medical waste.
But the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and the authorities of the respective hospitals have remained indifferent to the dangerous business of contagious waste.
MH Chowdhury (Lelin), public health expert and chairman of the Medicine department at Health and Hope Hospital, said the mishandling of medical waste spreads fatal diseases, including cancer, AIDS and hepatitis, and this may create a poisonous impact on the food chain.
“When anyone comes in contact with syringes, blood bags and cannulas used for patients with fatal diseases like cancer, AIDS and hepatitis, the diseases will be transmitted to his/her body,” he said.
“When the waste is mishandled, these mix with soil and water. The fish of water and crops from the land carry toxicity of the medical waste. When we take the food, it enters our body which may have a catastrophic impact,” Dr Lelin said.
Mushtaq Hussain, another public health expert and advisor to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said there is no scope of selling and recycling the waste in the existing legal structure. “The hospitals are given licences on the condition of proper management of the medical waste,” he said.
Asked, DGHS Director (Hospitals) Dr Md Farid Hossain Miah said he was not aware of the matter. “I’m not aware of the fact. I’ll discuss the issue with the authorities concerned,” he said.
During recent visits to Sir Salimullah Medical College and Mitford Hospital and Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), this correspondent has observed how the waste is sold outside.
At Mitford Hospital, it was seen that instead of dumping the waste into four designated bins, infectious waste, including syringes, blood bags, catheters and gauges, were being left on the road by the emergency department of the hospital.
Ruhul Amin and Masud Rana, two waste pickers, were collecting syringes, saline pipes, blood bags and injection vials from the road.
“All over the day, the ward boys of the hospital dump the medical waste when the containers become full. We collect the medical waste like saline pipes, syringes, blood bags and catheters from here,” said Ruhul Amin.
They said they sell these items to scarp shops near the hospital.
Sajjad Hossain, ward master of the surgery section at the hospital, said, “In every ward, we’ve kept four-colour bins but the cleaners, patients and their attendants mix the syringes, bandages, gauges and organic waste at the same bin regardless of the character of the waste. Every morning, workers of PRISM collect the waste from our hospital.”
He also denied any collusion with the waste pickers.
Asked about dumping medical waste into the open road, he said, “Huge medical waste is generated every day. When all containers get full, our cleaners have to dump waste outside for collecting more waste from the wards.”
Talking to the Daily Sun, Deputy Director of the hospital Mohammed Ali Habib said, “We have no treatment plant for treating liquid waste and incineration plant for solid waste. We preserve our medical waste in designated bins and a PRISM team collects those from us.”
At the DMCH, it was seen that the authorities put the four-colour bins in the wards for separation of different types of waste but it was not maintained properly.
Wishing anonymity, a cleaner of the hospital said, “The major portion of syringes, blood bags and saline bags go to the nearby scrap shops at Nimtali and some shops in front of Amar Ekushey Hall of Dhaka University in the afternoon. Traders make advancement payment to the ward boys and cleaners.”
Traders at Nimtali admitted the fact that they buy medical waste from the DMCH.
On condition of anonymity, a trader said, “We buy waste no matter whoever sells those. We don’t ask where he brings these from. These might be from Dhaka Medical (DMCH). The staff comes here to sell the waste. We don’t go inside the hospital.”
Asked, DMCH Director General Brig Gen Md Nazmul Haque said there is no scope of the waste going outside the hospital. “If anyone sells the waste in the market beyond our knowledge, we’ll take action against them.”
During a visit to Islambagh in Old Dhaka, it was seen that there were numerous scrap shops of recyclable waste which are dependent on used syringes, blood bags, saline bottles and other medical waste.
Talking to the Daily Sun, Dipak Sarker, owner of Dipak Plastic and Rubber Centre at Paschim Islambagh, said they buy the medical waste from Hazaribagh, Basabo, Mitford and Nimtali areas of the capital.
“There’re several hundred shops in the area which are involved with the business. We buy syringes at Tk 80 per kg and saline pipes at Tk 60. The crushed syringes and saline pipes are sold to different kinds of buyers,” he said.
“We collect the medical waste, which is gathered from across the country, from different parts of the capital. Dhaka Medical (DMCH) is the main source. The pieces will be crushed in a machine for selling,” he said.
Asked about the use of the medical items, he said, “Shoe factories and makers of other plastic items are the buyers of the crushed items.”
Owner of Surjoban Plastic Industries Sohel Rana said, “We buy crushed syringes and meld those to make shoes and buttons of calculators. Syringes and saline pipes are the best plastic for making fresh products.”