Containers of different colours are kept in front of Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College in Dhaka to treat and dispose of different types of medical waste properly, but the hospital cannot manage the system due to a lack of required infrastructure and skilled manpower.
In fact, most of the hospitals and diagnostic centres across the country cannot manage the system that requires separation and treatment of hazardous medical waste in yellow containers, sharp waste in red containers, radioactive waste in silver containers, recyclable waste in white containers, and non-recyclable waste in black containers.
To remedy the situation, the Ministry of Health recently sent a proposal to the Planning Ministry on setting up of waste management systems at 15 government hospitals by 2024 at a cost of around Tk214 crore.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council in its weekly meeting on Tuesday approved the waste management project. During the approval, the prime minister asked for readying manpower for waste management alongside a purchase of equipment.
She directed the authorities to compel private hospitals to dispose of medical waste properly.
The project, "Establishment of Medical Waste Management System in 15 Govt Hospitals," will develop an infrastructure to manage waste from government hospitals in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area of Dhaka, Kurmitola General Hospital, Sir Salimullah Medical College, Rangpur Medical College, Satkhira Medical College, and 10 government hospitals in Munshiganj, Bandarban, Lakshmipur, Jhenaidah, Bagerhat, Lalmonirhat, Joypurhat, Panchagarh, Pirojpur and Sherpur.
Under the project, equipment and vehicles needed for managing medical waste will be purchased.
Besides, skilled manpower will be developed through training at the "Waste Management Centre" established under the project.
Recommending the project, Nasima Begum, member (secretary) of Bangladesh Planning Commission, said, "This project will enable us to collect, transport, treat and dispose of medical waste, and provide healthcare in a safe, clean and infection-free environment."
"This project will alleviate the current crisis in medical waste management and reduce environmental and public health risks," Dr Farid Hossain Miah, director (hospitals and clinics) of the DGHS, told The Business Standard.
Sources at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said currently the non-government organisation PRISM Bangladesh Foundation collects and disposes of infectious medical waste, while the two city corporations in Dhaka dispose of non-infectious medical waste.
According to the project proposal, the risk of hepatitis-B, hepatitis-C, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and AIDS infections has been increasing as there are no proper medical waste treatment facilities at most government and nongovernment hospitals and diagnostic centres across the country.
A Brac study published in October last year found that 248 tonnes of medical waste are generated daily from the hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country. Among these, only 35 tonnes (14.1%) of waste are under proper management. This system is limited to the capital city Dhaka.
"On top of that, the treatment of this waste is managed by a single private organisation. Although waste separation facilities are available at the healthcare centres and hospitals in the country, there are no medical waste disposal or treatment facilities in place in those establishments," said the Brac study.
"Poorly managed waste in Bangladesh poses a huge threat to the environment and might create a prolonged and unwanted public health hazard and be a potential source of re-emerging infections," said Dr Lelin Chowdhury, an expert in public health and preventive healthcare.