No more hospitals

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Tuesday 31 March 2009

Court ban may not solve biomedical waste problem

NEW hospitals, clinics and healthcare facilities will not be sanctioned in Mumbai, for the time being. This follows a ban imposed by the Bombay High Court, on February 26. The court passed the order on a public interest petition after the city administration repeatedly failed to comply with earlier court directions on managing the city's biomedical waste.

The public interest petition was moved by Mumbai based non-profit, Consumer Welfare Association. "In the past three years, the court gave many directions but the corporation and the state pollution control board kept passing the buck to each other," said A M Mascarenhas, secretary to the non- profit.

He said the civic administration must act upon the court orders to safeguard public health.The non-profit had approached the court three years ago saying the biomedical waste of the city was disposed of unscientifically in landfill sites and posed a health hazard.

Public hazard
77 government hospitals and 1,457 private hospitals generate 2,625 tonnes of biomedical waste annually
In November 2007, a court appointed committee of two lawyers inspected city hospitals. It found major government hospitals like J J, kem and Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital, were not following the rules for biomedical waste management. It was found that two hospitals, M A Poddar and Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital for Animals, were not even registered with the state pollution control board (spcb).

The court then ordered legal action against the hospitals. The spcb issued show-cause notices but no further action was taken. On April 10, 2008, the court ordered the spcb to shut down hospitals that did not comply with the rules. Little heed was paid to the order. The court imposed a fine of Rs 1,000 each on the member secretary of the board and the state health secretary and finally imposed a ban on new healthcare facilities last month.

M S Kamath, a doctor who owns a clinic in Mahim, said the ban order was impractical. He said the rules on managing biomedical waste were strict but hardly effective. "Six firms are authorized to collect and transport medical waste every alternate day. Doctors and clinics pay Rs 500 per month for this. But the collection van comes only once a week," Kamath said.

A spokesperson of the spcb said the management and handling rules for disposing of biomedical waste are followed. He said the waste for incineration is sent to the facility at Taloja in Navi Mumbai and waste for autoclaving and shredding is sent to a separate facility in the eastern suburb, Sewree. He said a new centralized waste treatment facility with a capacity to dispose of 250 kg waste per hour is coming up in Deonar, another eastern suburb.

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