How clean are our hospitals? 

Health care does not necessarily mean cleanliness and hygiene at Delhi hospitals. We find out what ails the Swachh Bharat campaign in city health hubs.

Updated - November 16, 2021 04:31 pm IST

Published - August 18, 2015 11:10 am IST - New Delhi

Stinking ‘dhalaos’ filled with putrid medical and general waste, puddle-riddled roads doubling up as mosquito-breeding grounds, dirty toilets, corridors converted into a virtual ‘dhobi-ghat’ with clothes hung up for drying and rampant illegal encroachment around the premises: these are some of the sights that will greet you in Delhi and Central government hospitals that are participating in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’. 

Despite several cleanliness drives launched by different agencies, hospitals in the Capital continue to be plagued by the ever-growing waste (general and hospital) menace.

Recently, seven teams comprising senior officials from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) were formed to check liquid and solid waste management and general sanitation in hospitals. 

Those covered in the drive included All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Safdarjung Hospital, Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital, Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar Hospital, Raja Harishchandra Hospital, Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, Max Hospital, Saket, and Northern Railway Hospital. 

The teams found Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital and Northern Railway Hospital to be lacking in some aspects and their general sanitation condition just about satisfactory. 

“The hospital authorities were immediately briefed about the areas where improvement was possible and told to rectify them,” said a senior environment official. The other six hospitals more or less met the hygiene standards set by the teams.

The Capital on an average produces 8,630 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day, according to Delhi's Department of Environment, and a large percentage (35 per cent) of this is regulated medical waste.

The World Health Organization has noted that the waste produced in the course of health care activities, from contaminated needles to radioactive isotopes, carries a greater potential for causing infection and injury than any other type of waste. Inadequate or inappropriate management of such waste is likely to have serious public health consequences and deleterious effects on the environment. 

“And still you will find the end-cleaners collecting, segregating and cleaning medical waste with bare hands and no safety masks. Of course, the medical staff is very much aware of the best practices, but there is an urgent need to ensure that the waste is kept under control and disposed of well. Poor management of health care waste exposes health workers, waste handlers and the community to infections, toxic effects and injuries,” said Dr. Anil Bansal of the Delhi Medical Council.

Dhalaos outside many big hospitals in the city are another big health hazard. Lok Nayak Hospital, Guru Nanak Eye Centre and Maulana Azad Medical College have been struggling with this problem for a long time.

“We have a huge dhalao at the entrance of the hospital and illegal construction right next to it. This has increased the threat of infection for people at the hospital, but despite multiple reminders and appeals, nothing has been done to improve the situation,” said an official from Guru Nanak Eye Centre.

A guard at Lok Nayak Hospital said despite repeated warnings the shopkeepers and patients’ relatives refuse to throw garbage at designated spots. “They litter unmindfully. Some also insist on taking a bath in the open despite there being public toilets with proper cover and water supply,” he said.

Doctors at Kalawati Saran Hospital (for children) complain about the same unhygienic practices. “We always try and educate patients and the sanitation staff about the need to keep clean, but this has to be a collective effort. Repair of roads inside the hospital premises, collection of waste and ensuring that waste is not left unattended should be an ongoing process. Cleaning crew has to be given proper equipment, paid on time and be made accountable for the services they are rendering.”

“We cannot have a biomedical bomb ticking in the yards of the Capital’s most trusted hospitals and have the surrounding equally dirty with general waste. Hospitals have to shape up and maintain very high standards of cleanliness. We can’t have disease coming from within the hospitals,” said a senior official at DPCC.

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