We are horrified by the flagrant disregard for proper disposal of medical waste at a time when Covid-19 infections are increasing along with the number of deaths per day. A recent photograph published in this daily shows discarded personal protective equipment (PPE) lying on the ground near Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) corona-isolation unit. Another photograph shows gloves, masks and other waste floating in the murky water of the fountain there. Dumping of such hazardous materials on the premises has been a common practice near many hospitals.
Being disposable in nature, gloves, masks, PPEs and nasopharyngeal swabs, etc. are all essential items to tackle the virus, but they are also highly contaminated after use. According to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, 5.2 million people (including 4 million children) die due to medical waste related diseases each year. This paper has continuously reported on poor medical waste management even before the pandemic struck. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for proper medical waste disposal is now more important than ever.
Authorities of hospitals and other healthcare organisations along with city corporations and municipalities must be meticulous about managing medical waste—which needs to be collected, transported, treated, and disposed of in separate containers. While a few hospitals throw their waste into a ditch and burn it in their backyards, most of it seems to end up out in the open or in the landfills. In the absence of state-of-the-art medical waste management systems across the country, the government immediately needs to issue guidelines regarding the matter for the sake of public health safety and strictly ensure that they are being followed.
It is absolutely essential to prevent the spread of infection. Every worker who manages medical waste needs to be provided with safety gear. Special incineration plants can be set up. Halting the recycling of all waste materials during the pandemic may also be needed. In the meantime, the government must initiate construction of modern medical waste management systems nationwide.