Though there were guidelines and a public notice on Covid-19 related household and healthcare waste management from DGHS and DoE, it was never implemented properly
Around 93.4% of Covid-19 related medical waste is not properly managed. Only 6.6% of Covid-19 related health and safety medical waste is managed properly in the country.
The Climate Change Program of Brac unveiled the findings on Monday during a webinar about a study on “Effective Management of Medical Waste amid Covid-19 Pandemic,” which was conducted between July 20 and August 10.
The study results show that 248 tons of medical waste is generated daily from hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country. Of that, only 35 tons (14.1%) of waste is properly managed and is limited to the capital city of Dhaka only.
Every day 282.45 tons of medical waste is generated from PPEs used by people to protect themselves against Covid-19, all of which are mixed with household waste disposal.
When Covid-19 related medical waste from both hospitals and households is taken into account, 93.4% goes without proper waste management protocols.
Speaking at the event as chief guest, Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives Tazul Islam said: “We have shortcomings in waste management. Lack of prioritizing, lack of awareness, and technological shortcomings are among several reasons behind this.”
“A policy is being formulated stipulating that all hospitals will have to burn their waste. The country belongs to all of us and that is why all government and non-government entities should come forward to tackle the issue,” added the minister.
The study reveals that 71% of the surveyed population use PPEs and a large number of them live in cities. Almost 100% of all households dispose of their Covid-19 related waste mixed with their household waste due to lack of proper waste management services.
Waste collectors have also said they find Covid-19 related waste in household waste.
In this regard, BRAC Executive Director Asif Saleh said: “The volume of medical waste was 3,000-tons, only in Dhaka, for the month of May. This proves medical waste is turning into a hazard for the public and the environment.”
300 doctors and healthcare workers participated in the survey and only 43.6% of them are aware of the “Medical Waste Management Policy 2008.”
Of the 300 workers, 84% think that the existing medical waste management is very fragile and 90.3% of them believe that integrated and participatory planning and its proper implementation are necessary.
Experts, who participated in the study, believe that though there were guidelines, and public notice on Covid-19-related household and healthcare waste management from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and the Department of Environment (DoE), it was not implemented properly.
Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, chairperson of BRAC, said four aspects are needed to be prioritized to tackle the crisis.
He said: “Turning public awareness into a habit, the coordinated effort of all stakeholders, achieving waste management capabilities, and setting a sustainable solution to the existing problem -- these four aspects are crucial to tackle the crisis.”
Dr A K M Rafique Ahmmed, director general of the Department of Environment, said: “At present, there is no specific infrastructure or initiative in the current system for medical waste management. This is crucial to public health and this can be implemented through public-private partnership. BRAC’s extensive network across the country can be utilized to bring out a timely solution to this crisis.”
Air Commodore Md Badrul Amin, chief waste management officer of Dhaka South City Corporation, said: “An effort is underway to make people aware so that they keep their medical waste separated. Even hospital waste is being mixed with regular waste which is hazardous for public health. Directorates concerned should be directed to make sure that hospital waste is being handed over separately to the authorities concerned.”