Thursday, December 8 2016

VietNamNews

Medical waste dumping rife

Update: June, 29/2016 - 09:00
Workers from Hà Nội Environment and Urban Company operate a medical treatment facility in Hà Nội’s Từ Liêm District. At some facilities, untreated medical waste is reportedly mixed in with ordinary garbage, which poses dangers to the public. – VNA/VNS Photo Hữu Oai
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI – Many private healthcare clinics in Hà Nội are skirting waste regulations and dumping medical waste – some of it toxic – into streets, according to recent reports.

Under the Hà Nội Healthcare Department’s regulations, private healthcare clinics that dispose of medical waste every day are only granted operation licences if they prove they have contracts with authorised waste collectors.

However, an investigation by Lao Động (Labour) newspaper revealed that many clinics let their waste collection contracts expire after a one-year period in order to save money.

The medical waste must be properly classified for special treatment. Untreated waste left in public areas poses high risks of disease infection to community members and regular garbage collectors who are not prepared to handle medical waste.

Dr Nguyễn Duy Thịnh, an expert on the environment and community health, told Lao Động that “littering medical waste and mixing it with daily garbage is very dangerous to people’s health and the environment.”

“Packages of medical waste, including used needles with blood and disease specimens that were littered in the streets, were disease infection sources likely to spread throughout the community,” he said.

The root of the problem is the clinics’ lack of awareness of community health and environmental protection, as well as authorities’ loose management and inspections, Thịnh said.

Bùi Chí Bình, vice director of the Environment and Urban Company – Urenco 10, told the paper, “In fact, the quantity of medical waste the company collected from private clinics was not much.”

“The company’s statistics showed that the medical waste we collected every month was about six tonnes,” said Bình. “Our main clients are big clinics - those that really care about the environment.”

Medical waste collectors were refused by clinics for nonsensical reasons, Bình said.

Nguyễn Văn Thủ, a garbage collector of Urenco 10, told the paper that many clinics refused to let him collect waste on the first day of the lunar month.

“They said that discharging waste on the first day of the lunar month would be bad luck for business,” Thủ explained.

Bình told the paper that most private clinics hired brokers to sign contracts with waste collection companies. They needed the contracts to complete their clinic operation applications, but they didn’t know or care whether the contracts were valid, said Bình.

“Therefore, many clinics have contracts with us, but have not called to collect medical waste every day,” he said.

Loose management

Tô Tử Anh, deputy head of private clinic management at the city’s healthcare department, said, “The healthcare department is responsible for granting licences to private clinics and managing their operations.”

“And the responsibility for discharging and treating medical waste belongs to clinic owners,” he said.

He did not respond to a question regarding clinics that fail to extend their waste collection contracts after one year.

He did not know what proportion of the 2,400 clinics have medical waste collection contracts with environmental companies, the paper reported. -- VNS

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