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Medical waste to raise risk of infection

Published : 20 Jun 2020 10:11 PM | Updated : 04 Sep 2020 10:15 PM

Piles of COVID-19 medical waste, disposed of without being treated properly, are increasing the risk of infection to people.

Public health experts say that these wastes are mixing with the environment through water, food, soil, air and livestock and putting the environment as well as the lives of cross-sections of people in jeopardy.

More than 100 hospitals in the country are giving treatment to coronavirus infected patients without following prop¬er rules and regulations to dump the hazardous trashes, sources said.

Usually medical waste is disposed of by burning into incinerators in¬stalled at public hospitals. However, it is known that apart from Sheikh Hasina Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery, there is no medical waste management solution with modern microwave technology in any hospital of the country.

As government is yet to come up with special measures to set up incinerators and guide¬lines to collect, pack, store and dispose of highly dangerous COV¬ID-19 infectious medical garbage and sharps, hospital staff as well as waste collectors are susceptible to infection.

Meanwhile, in the absence of public guidelines, people have no idea about how to trash their used COV¬ID-19 wastes.

As per the guidelines of the World Health Organization, Personal Protective Equipment(PPE) is considered ashazardous waste once it is used. In addition to PPE, various hazardous wastes such as facial tissues, gauze, bandages, masks, oxygen masks used by patients, test tubes of nasopharyngeal swabs, saline bags, disposable syringes and needlesare also being produced in hospitals.

According to Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), the government has distributed 23,41,605 sets of PPEs in the country's hospitals till June 19. From which about 35 to 40 lakh kg of hazardous medical wastes has been produced.

Again, according to Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO), the country has produced 14,000 tons of plastic waste from March 26 to April 25, of whichonly gloves were 5, 877tonnes.

Public health expert Dr Lelin Chowdhury said to Bangladesh Post, “If medical wastes are not treated properly, germs and virus can enter the food cycle through soil and water. This could lead to catastrophic disasters.”

As a result, experts suggest introducing microwave technology at various COVID-19 designated hospitals formodern medical waste management.

Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute Hospital Director Prof MdAbulKalamsaid, “The medical waste management solution of modern microwave technology is very effective in treating all types of infectious medical wastes. This machine first disposes of a chamber waste. Then, in the second step the wastes are incinerated at high heat.”

“In the third stage, the wastes are completely refined and those come out from the grinder in the form of sand which can be reused to make tissue paper,” he continued.

He went on to say, “Initially, Tk 5 to 6 crore is required to set up a waste treatment plant. However, for government hospitals, zone-based (one in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, another in Mohakhali) medical waste treatment plantusing microwave technology can be set up. Private hospitals, on the other hand, can treat medical wastes by setting up one or more integrated plants.”

DGHS director (Hospitals and Clinics) DrAminul Hasan said, “Corona waste is 100 times more contagious than any other medical waste. So, it is very risky to leave these wastes here and there or not to treat them properly.”

He concluded with a piece of good news that the process of purchasing waste treatment plant has already started taking the hazardous impacts of COVID-19 medical wastes into account.

“There are two modern methods, one is ultraviolet technology and the other is microwave technology. After reviewing the overall issues, the government will soon take a move towards purchasing waste treatment plants.”