Even with clear rules which state hospital waste must be incinerated within 24 hours of its collection, incinerators at two major hospitals in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) are out of order and the waste is dumped outside the hospitals.
According to data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 15 to 20 tons of hospital waste is generated daily in the provincial capital alone. Almost half of the total waste is recycled while the rest is collected by the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA).
“To be honest, we have one incinerator which is not in proper working condition and hardly disposes a quarter of the total waste generated,” said an official at Lady Reading Hospital while requesting anonymity. “But we have a new incinerator which will soon be functional.”
The official, who did not know the exact figure of the waste generated, said LRH has been among the well-equipped hospitals across the country. It has over 5,000 people (at least 3,000 in outpatient and 2,000 in accident and emergency departments) from across the province on a daily basis.
“The incinerator under process has some issues as a few of its parts are yet to be obtained,” said the official. “It also needs sufficient gas—another major problem—but we are in contact with Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL).”
The LRH official added the supply of gas to the hospital is not enough for sterilisation. He said the hospital administration is in contact with SNGPL authorities and the issue will soon be resolved.
Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) Chief Executive Dr Mumtaz Marwat said the incinerator at HMC is out of order but it does burn some waste. “The leftover is collected by the PDA and the hospital administration has approved Rs0.4million for a new incinerator, which will soon be installed.”
Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) Chief Executive Dr Inayat Shah Roghani said the incinerator at KTH was working properly and recycles over 200 kilogrammes of waste per hour.
“Along with the solid waste generated by KTH, we also recycle waste that comes from a few private hospitals in University Town,” said Roghani.
The EPA has already sent a written notice to the health directorate, asking it to properly dispose of medical waste as mentioned under Hospital Waste Management Rules 2005. These say the responsibility of waste management lies solely with the institute that generated it.
What happens next
Even if the incinerators at these hospitals are repaired, the problem of unattended dump is likely to persist. This is mostly because of the small private health centres which lack the basic knowledge and dispose of their waste as ‘municipal waste’. The ever-increasing number of such centres is directly proportional to the waste generated, making it a threat for the environment as at times the waste is just left in a pile or buried to groundwater.