• Friday, Dec 02, 2022
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

No medical waste disposal facility at 77% private healthcare institutions

  • Published at 01:43 pm July 6th, 2021
Medical waste
File photo: Medical waste left carelessly on the side of a road in Dhaka Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

BBS survey on Bangladesh’s private healthcare sector describes the scenario as ‘alarming’

Bangladesh’s private sector healthcare facilities have witnessed a nearly five-fold growth, in number, over the past 20 years. But when it comes to a safe disposal of a huge quantity of medical waste that they generate each day, the scene is nothing short of a public health disaster. 

After surveying these private hospitals’ poor capacity to handle the huge piles of medical waste, a government agency has recently described conditions as ‘alarming.’ 

In its recently published nationwide survey on private healthcare institutions, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) says the system of Medical Waste Management (MWM) in the private hospitals is very weak and alarming.

The BBS survey, conducted before the pandemic, has found that the vast majority (77%) of private healthcare institutions do not have any facilities for treatment of medical waste and a majority (65%) of them have never arranged for their staff any training program on medical waste management. Among all the private medical facilities there are about 28 percent of institutions (hospitals, clinics, diagnostic centres etc.) where even no waste management plan exists. 

Also Read - Study: 93% of Covid-19 related medical waste poorly managed

The BBS survey finds that the number of Bangladesh’s private hospitals, general clinics, dental clinics and diagnostic centres grew from over 3,500 in 2000 to nearly 17,000 now. It notes that the country’s private sector healthcare facilities have overtaken public sector medical services to the extent that they now provide two-thirds of over 150,000 hospital beds available in the country.  

The BBS estimates that the private sector healthcare facilities generate over 67,198 tons of medical waste a year, with an overwhelming 65 percent of it generated by 4,452 private hospitals and the remaining 35 percent by over 12,500 private clinics and diagnostic centres. It, however, gives no statistics for public medical hospitals as that was not within the purview of the survey in question. 

Disposal of solid waste 

The BBS survey finds that 46% of private hospitals dump solid medical waste in municipal bins/landfills, around 36 % dump it in open places (sides of roads/rivers, disused land) without any environmental control. 

Around 18 % of the hospitals dispose of the solid waste through a deep burial method while some 13% dispose of the same after burning it. 

Disposal of liquid waste 

The BBS notes that over 35% of the total number of hospitals dispose of their liquid waste in general sewers/drains after treatment, but some 43% others do so without treating the waste.  

Around four percent of the hospitals said they discharged their liquid waste into rivers/canals after treatment but 6.50% others said they did so without treatment. 

And nearly 16% of the hospitals opted for other options, including throwing their liquid waste on the ground.

Also Read - ED: Improper medical waste disposal threatens us all

Importance of safe disposal

Safe and environmentally sound management of medical waste is vital to prevent the adverse health and environmental impacts of such waste. 

The BBS survey report states, “Improper handling, treatment and disposal of medical waste generated in the healthcare institutions poses a serious threat to the environment and human health.”

It says that healthcare institutions produce a huge amount of medical waste which can mainly be categorized into risk medical waste and non-risk medical waste. “It is essential that all types of medical waste should be collected, segregated, treated, stored and disposed of in a proper process with the standard scientific technique to minimize the risk of infection, injury and environmental pollution.” 

For effective medical waste management, each and every healthcare institution should have a guiding document, which is absent in 28% of the private healthcare institutions in Bangladesh. 

Also Read - WHO: Soaring e-waste affecting health of millions of children

Such a document on waste management plan provides overall policies and principles on how medical waste should be collected, segregated, treated and disposed of.  

Trained healthcare employees engaged in the management and safe disposal of medical waste play an important role in reducing health risks for employees of the health care institution, patients and society, states BBS. But in Bangladesh only 35 percent of private healthcare institutes have such trained manpower. 

Medical waste may have extremely harmful effects on both human health and the environment if not treated and disposed of in an efficient and scientific method. Medical waste must be treated properly on-site at the point of generation by an accredited system, states BBS. But only 23% of all private healthcare facilities do so. 

“It is very unfortunate to note that the majority of healthcare institutions do not have minimum facilities for a proper treatment/management of medical waste, which can have considerable detrimental effects on public health and the environment,” reads the BBS report.

The survey finds that out of the total 4,452 private hospitals, only 793 (17.8%) hospitals have incinerators. This equipment is used in the process of burning solid waste to reduce the volume of waste by removing combustible matter. The vast majority of hospitals (82.2%) do not have incinerators for medical waste management. 

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