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Hospital Waste Management: A Requirement

In a country like India, heaps of litter is taken to dump sites. Mostly the waste ends up on
road sides and empty plots. Untreated waste bears an economic cost for residents of the
locality and is also an environmental hazard. Increasing pollution leading to environmental
changes and economic cost related to waste in terms of health hazards and negative impact on
infrastructure have changed the authorities view it.

Hospital waste management is a formal discipline and does occupy a critical place in the

management of healthcare sector. The management of hospital waste requires its removal and
disposal from the healthcare establishments as hygienically and economically as possible by
methods that all stages minimises the risk to public health and to environment. Hospital waste
management is an important process that must be dealt with diligently. The management of
hazardous waste material requires specific knowledge and regulations and it must be carried
out by specialists in the field. Though waste management is a relatively new phenomenon, it
has caught the attention of the Government. Today the term waste management covers collecting,
sorting, processing, recycling and reusing materials that would otherwise be considered as

Hospital waste refers to all waste, biologic or non biologic that is discarded and not

intended for further use. Medical waste is a subset of hospital waste; it refers to the
material generated as result of diagnosis, treatment or immunisation of patients and
associated biomedical research. Biomedical waste is generated in hospitals, research
institutions, healthcare teaching institutions, clinics, laboratories, blood banks, animal
houses and veterinary institutions. Hospital waste management means the management of waste
produced by hospitals using techniques that will check the spread of diseases. A variety of
methods are used by the medical facilities to dispose their wastes including burning burial,
entombing, selling, dumping and removal by municipal bins. In developing countries, awareness
regarding hospital waste management in terms of its segregation, collection, storage,
transportation and disposal is lacking. In those countries waste disposal practice was found
to be quite unsafe and both clinical and non clinical wastes were found to be thrown together.
The management of hospital waste poses a major problem in most of the countries. In recent
years medical waste disposal has posed even more difficulties with the appearance of
disposable needles, syringes and other similar items. There are several categories of hospital
wastes according to their weight density and constituents. The World Health Organization has
classified medical waste into different categories which are infectious, sharps, pathological,
pharmaceutical and radioactive. There are several categories of infectious waste like human
tissues and body parts, animal carcasses, syringes, blades, saws, drugs, vomits, urine,
chemicals and fluid from laboratories. Infectious healthcare waste is major cause of HIV/AIDS,
Hepatitis B and C viral infections. These viruses are generally transmitted through injuries
from needles and sharp objects which are contaminated with human blood. In some countries
contaminated disposable needles are often scavenged, repackaged, sold and reused without
sterilization. Such malpractices are associated with serious health implications due to
transmission of infectious disease. There are numerous other diseases which could be
transmitted by contact with healthcare wastes. These are urinary tract infections, wound
infections, bacteremia and skin infections. Healthcare waste disposal in each country depends
upon a number of factors including sensitization level of the health managers as well as other
professionals existing local legislation and available resources.

Hospitals are socially obliged to maintain a clean environment and dispose medical waste in

order to prevent pollution and infections within and near the hospital. Every hospital should
have its waste management team that will cover responsibilities, plan, collection,
segregation, transportation, storage, disposable methods, containers and their colour coding,
waste minimization techniques, protective clothing etc. Further that heavy penalty shall be
imposed on the institutions found to be negligent.

Hospital waste water is a source of environmental pollution and health risks. Hospital waste

water is loaded with pathogenic microorganism, heavy metals, disinfectants, detergents,
solvents, pharmaceuticals and others. Uncontrolled discharge in most of the hospitals enhances
the eco toxicological risk for environment and toxic or infectious risk for humans. With
reference to hospital waste management, institutional strengthening to develop, implement and
enforce regulations on hospital waste management is needed. Sensitisation, motivation
campaigns and technical courses among professionals, technicians and sanitary workers should
be carried out; so that they identify themselves with responsibilities.

There is not enough information on medical waste management technologies and its impact on

public health and environment. Practice of proper medical waste disposal and management is
also inadequate. There is need for raising awareness about medical waste and its related
issues. The need for healthcare waste management planning should be highlighted to facilitate
the implementation of necessary measures to improve the present healthcare waste management

- By Dr. Gitartha Roymedhi