Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hospital Waste

Here's an instance of callousness that really shook me: a waste dump on the roadside near Avalahalli which contained not just kitchen waste but also body parts, blood samples, needles and sundry other hospital waste - all untreated, of course. Environment Support Group is following it up. Here's an article I wrote about it for Citizen matters.

It was late afternoon on 3rd November when five men worked by the side of a lonely stretch of road in the as yet un-named land between Anjanapura and Kanakapura Road. The men silently hoed and shovelled the last dregs of a waste heap, shoving the plastic and other indistinct matter into a truck parked nearby, where one of the men stood next to the waste. At first glance, it appeared to be one of the many dumps of domestic waste one often sees on empty plots, full of plastic bags. In fact, it was something much more dangerous – it was untreated hospital waste.

Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group and Sangeeta Gowra, 35, a teacher at a school nearby, were among the first to see the dump and had initially thought it was restaurant waste – among the items that had spilled out of the plastic bags or were lying loose among the waste were coconut shells and coffee shop waste. But then they noticed the blood samples, needles, lab reports, visitor passes, cotton, surgical masks and other items among the waste and realised what it was. Recognising the health hazard the dump posed, Saldanha immediately dialled 108, the newly launched round-the-clock emergency response service for medical, police or fire-related emergencies.

To make matters worse, Saldanha picked up a sheaf of papers from the site which turned out to be requests for biochemical tests and lab reports of particular patients. Each report gives several details including the name of the patient, his or her Universal Hospital Identification Device (UHID) number and a barcode. Such patient details are usually held to be confidential. These reports, as well as 80 investigation slips and some discarded visitor passes that were at the site were all from Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore.

You can see the complete article here.

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