Indicating their non-compliance to safe disposal of hazardous waste, hospitals in Kashmir have failed to submit mandatory bio-medical waste disposal report to J&K Pollution Control Board (PCB) for second successive year, forcing the regulatory board now to mull legal recourse.
Last week, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) reprimanded the PCB for failing to furnish compliance report on bio-medical waste disposal in the state hospitals. An official said the report sought by the CPCB is a compilation of the data furnished by the healthcare facilities.
"Since we have received the annual report from only one hospital in the entire Kashmir, we are not in a position to report to the central board," regional director PCB, Syed Nadeem Qadri said.
He said the annual reports needed to be filed by the hospitals by June every year but for the second successive year this year the hospitals had flouted the rule.
Communications in possession of Greater Kashmir reveal that the PCB has repeatedly sought "cooperation" from the principal government medical college (GMC) Srinagar and director health services Kashmir in this regard.
A letter had been forwarded to these administrators in November 2017, followed by several reminders. However there had been "no response at all" from the hospitals, JKPCB officials said.
One of these reminders dated 16 December 2018 to principal GMC Srinagar reads, "It is most unfortunate that in spite of repeated requests and reminders, still most of the healthcare establishments have failed to submit (the) annual report under the rules".
The letter impresses upon the medical college to submit the compliance report "before any action is initiated against the defaulters as mandated under law".
The GMC has administrative control over seven hospitals: SMHS hospital, Lal Ded hospital, GB Pant Pediatric hospital, Bone and Joints Hospital, Chest Diseases Hospital, Kashmir Nursing Home and Psychiatric Diseases Hospital. Of these seven hospitals, PCB officials said, only Chest Diseases Hospital has filed the report.
The board has also sent multiple reminders to the director health services, which has the administrative control of all peripheral hospitals in Kashmir including district and sub-district hospitals as well as JLNM Hospital and Gousia Hospital in Srinagar. Besides these hospitals, there is tertiary care Shere-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura and SKIMS Bemina hospital.
As per the advisory committee on bio-medical waste management, a hospital with 30 or more beds need to install a waste water treatment plant for safe disposal of liquid hospital waste. On an average a bed generates 500 liters of liquid waste a day.
Officials said that the rules make it mandatory that all healthcare establishments, no matter how much waste they generate, have to apply for authorization from PCB.
"Our health systems are risking lives of people with the callous approach towards bio-medical waste disposal," said a PCB official.
With no response from hospitals' authorities, the PCB, through a communication (dated 15 March 2018) sought help of J&K government in enforcement of the hospital waste laws. "Majority of government healthcare establishments are still deficient as far as the implementation of bio-medical waste management rules are concerned," reads the letter. "It is requested that an advisory may kindly be issued to all the administrators of government run healthcare facilities".
Biomedical waste is categorized as hazardous and having "far reaching effects on health and environment". Experts said that hospital waste is a potential health hazard to the health care workers, public and flora and fauna of the area.
As per the biomedical waste management rules 2016, hospitals need not to segregate the waste as per the approved colour coding and also pre-treat laboratory waste, blood samples, blood bags, and microbiology waste before sending it to waste treatment facility in order to reduce chances of infection to handlers and those who come in contact with it.
"We don't know whether all these guidelines are followed by the hospitals since they have repeatedly failed to cooperate in ensuring safe disposal of the waste including hazardous bio-medical waste," said a PCB official.
Principal GMC Srinagar said that all hospitals had been directed to file the reports as soon as possible. "We are on it," she said.
She added, "We, on our part are doing our best to dispose the waste scientifically."
Director health services Kashmir, Dr Saleem ur Rehman said: "We are segregating the waste at the source, and have tied up with the Lassipora incinerator."
He, however, agreed that effluent waste from hospitals was not being managed safely. "That is a concern and we are working on it," he said.