Treatment of biomed waste a challenge in TN

Ever since the pandemic broke out in 2020, at least 35 tonnes of biomedical waste have been collected from healthcare centres in the State.
Treatment of biomed waste a challenge in TN

Chennai: While Tamil Nadu boasts of stellar medical facilities including state-of-the-art hospitals (both private and State-run), primary healthcare centres, and several other affordable and accessible healthcare facilities, the handling and treatment of biomedical waste continues to be a challenge.

Ever since the pandemic broke out in 2020, at least 35 tonnes of biomedical waste have been collected from healthcare centres in the State. While hospitals face difficulty in processing and handling the biomedical waste, treatment of the same hasn’t been easy for the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).

The disposal consists of autoclave, shredder, incinerator, and secured landfill facilities. There are 3 such facilities in Gummidipoondi, Hosur and Tiruppur. On an average, daily 35 tonnes of biomedical waste are handled by these facilities.

From April 1-15, at least 8,813 kg of waste was generated across the State. The disposal facilities stated that the generation of biomedical waste has reduced in the last two-plus years.

“Compared to the last two years of COVID, the generation of medical waste has reduced drastically. We used to collect at least 5 tonnes of hospital waste daily. Now that COVID cases have decreased, we’re collecting only 50-100 kg/day from a part of Chennai, Chengalpattu and Kancheepuram. Also, we have enough incinerators here that will dispose up to 19 tonnes of biomedical waste,” said P Sivakumar, operation general manager, GJ Multiclave (India), a waste management organisation that has ties with government and private healthcare facilities.

There are a few healthcare centres that dump biomedical waste in the city outskirts.

But, the frequency of such incidents has drastically reduced after the issue appeared in various media outlets. However, activists claim that when they raise complaints against illegal dumping of biomedical waste in public places, they’re being threatened.

An environmental activist said that healthcare centres in town panchayats discard hospital waste in Tiruvallur and Tiruneermalai quarries. “But we’re unable to identify small hospitals and clinics involved in such activities. We urge the government to install more biomedical waste disposal facilities in Tamil Nadu,” the activist explained.

Recently, TNPCB and Greater Chennai Corporation observed that the used syringes and small medical tubes were spread near the Pattinapakkam beach adjacent to Adyar Estuary, scattered for about 300 metres. The medical waste (1.2 kg) was collected and transported to the disposal facility for further treatment and disposal.

The name of the healthcare facility that disposed the waste could not be ascertained. However, the TNPCB officials assure that strict action would be taken against any person or entity on indiscriminate hospital waste disposal.

Said R Kannan, member secretary, TNPCB, “The disposal facilities have enough capacity to dispose tonnes of medical waste across the state. If the local body or public spot biomedical waste along with solid waste dumped by any healthcare centres, they can raise complaints against the hospitals or clinics, and the department will address it immediately.”

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