Nov 05 - 11, 2007

LAHORE: The first-ever National Conference on the topic of "Environmental Friendly Hospitals: Managing Hospital Waste", was organised at the University of Health Sciences (UHS), Lahore, in collaboration with Environmental Protection Department Punjab and Green Future.

Addressing the inaugural session, Governor Punjab Lt-General (Retd.) Khalid Maqbool said that effective disposal of hospital waste is an extremely important and alarming issue in Pakistan, which needs to be taken very seriously. "There is a definite requirement that immediate and proper decisions to develop and implement a hospital waste management system, which is workable and affordable, are taken at all hospitals", he added. All over the country, he said the hospital waste management practices had not been given due attention and the waste disposal in our hospitals was placed at a low priority. He further said that the dangers of the spread of diseases from the misuse of discarded syringes and the handling and resale of used blood products such as tubes, bags or plastic bottles were very serious.

He said that Pakistan was facing a big challenge in both communicable and chronic diseases and almost 45 per cent of population is under the burden of these diseases.

The Governor said that provincial government had taken many steps to improve health sector but the problems were immense. He was of the view that the tertiary care hospitals should take up the responsibility and chalk out schemes for hospital waste management with the help of World Health Organization (WHO). He also lauded the efforts of UHS for the promotion of medical education in the country.

Speaking on the occasion Punjab Environment Minister Dr. Anjum Amjad said that infectious diseases such as hepatitis B & C and AIDS were spreading because of proper non-disposal waste produced by public and private sector hospitals.

She said that the management of healthcare wastes was not satisfactory in any where in Punjab. "The general awareness of the health and environmental risks resulting from poor health care waste management practices is limited at all levels of management", she observed.

She added that while there was an attempt to segregate infectious and hazardous waste in some hospitals the subsequent handling of segregated materials was uncontrolled, which exposed hospital workers, municipal workers, waste pickers and recycling to serious health risks. Inappropriate recycling of some components of health care waste was taking place in all the cities of the province and, in general, no special arrangement were made to handle infectious and hazardous materials, she maintained with concern adding that some hospitals had incinerators for disposal of infectious waste but many were not operating continuously and emission control system was non-existent, she added.

The minister informed that incinerators and autoclaves would be provided in 10 district headquarters hospitals of the province. She said that hospital incinerators would be gradually shifted out of cities and tertiary hospitals would be provided autoclaves. She also emphasized the need for establishing special committees in each hospital to manage hazardous waste.

World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Pakistan, Dr. Khalif Bille Mohamud said that improper hospital waste management posed a great health risk, not only to medical staff but also to general public all over the world. "In USA 10 per cent of health problems are caused by hospitals themselves in the form of infections", he informed.

Dr. Bille said that around 250,000 tonnes of medical waste was annually produced from all sort of health care facilities in the country. About 15 tonnes of hospital waste was produced daily in Punjab alone. The rate of generation was 1.8 kg per bed per day, out of which one fourth was hazardous, he said.

He was of the view that any systematic approach to waste management must involve the whole of the hospital set up and it must be realized that better management of waste was everyone's responsibility.

Earlier, UHS Vice Chancellor Prof. Malik H. Mubbashar, in his welcome address, said that UHS had always taken a lead in coming up with innovative ideas. He briefed the audience on new academic programmes and initiatives of the university. He said that it was for the first time in country that UHS had introduced 17 new B.Sc courses in allied health sciences. He informed that more than 175 applications received for new M.Sc programme in medical lab technology.

Brig. Mowadat Hussain Rana and representative of Green Future also spoke on the occasion.

A large number of professors, government officials, doctors and students attended the conference.

Later, the governor visited the allied health sciences department of the university and addressed the students. Two workshops were also held on policies and guidelines for hospital waste management.