Many hospitals resolved their biomedical waste handling crisis when they became members of Indian Medical Association Goes Eco-Friendly (IMAGE) in a bid to clear segregated biomedical waste every day.

Disposing medical waste safely in households is a tough task. Those with bed-ridden patients at home using urine catheters or adult napkins, diabetics using syringes to administer insulin or anyone using sanitary napkins or dressing wounds at home — all face the problem of having to dispose medical waste that needs to be segregated from general waste. But what does one do about it?

In the IMAGE initiative, the waste is collected in containers and taken away by a vehicle from each member hospital and clinic and is sent to the common biomedical waste treatment and disposal plant at Kanjikode.

Biomedical waste from households, however, gets mixed up with general waste creating a health hazard. The Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India (CREDAI) Kochi representatives had approached IMAGE to find a solution to the problem.

Abraham Varghese, president of IMA-Kochi who had initiated the project in 2003 as IMAGE president, said that they had approached the Mayor to help identify land in the area so that a biomedical waste plant modelled on the Kanjikode plant could be set up here. This would not only help dispose the waste collected from hospitals in the district, but also cover waste generation from households.

Dr. Varghese said that people had to be cautious about disposing biomedical waste in the open till some solution is found. While most people resort to burning napkins, syringes and needles may be collected along with the waste of the hospital where the person goes for treatment.

IMAGE collects about 3-4 tonnes of biomedical waste from the district, highest in the 17 tonnes collected daily from 14 districts. The hospitals are charged for the service according to the number of beds. The collection charge per day is Rs.4.50 while the affiliation charge is Rs.1,500 per bed. Clinics pay a charge equal to five beds with rounded off charges of Rs.6000 for affiliation and Rs.600 per month collection charges.

In the district, 467 institutions are members of IMAGE of which about 60 per cent are from the private sector. A new member is initiated into segregation of waste at the source and following procedures is a must to be part of IMAGE. Colour codes have been assigned to post-operative body parts; syringes, used cotton, gloves and bags; chemicals and drugs, incinerated ash and empty insecticide bottles. Glass containers to hold broken glass and ampoules and metal containers to hold needles, blades etc. are the segregation procedures to be followed.

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