By: Ananya Tewari, Senior Research Associate
Context: Medical care is vital for our life, however the waste generated from medical activities poses a real threat in today’s world. A large amount of potentially infectious and hazardous waste is generated on a daily basis across healthcare facilities globally. Disposal of this waste is a concern as it is considered to be infectious or biohazardous in nature and can potentially lead to the spread of infections. Therefore, management of healthcare waste or biomedical waste (BMW) in a safe and sustainable manner is a social and legal responsibility of health workers to ensure environmental, occupational as well as public health.
Regulatory framework and implementation: BMW management follows a cradle to grave approach including characterization, quantification, segregation, storage, transportation and treatment of BMW. To ensure safe handling, treatment and disposal of such waste, countries have regulations in place. India’s legislative framework was set out in 1998 with subsequent amendments in 2000, 2003 and 2011. In 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) notified new BMW management rules that were subsequently amended in 2018 and 2019. All these amendments and modifications were aimed at improving the management of BMW in the country. MoEFCC is the nodal agency for planning, coordinating and implementing environmental policies and programmes in India. The latest guidelines were released in relation to CoVID waste management in April 2020 by the Central Pollution Control Board- a statutory organisation under MoEFCC. Preliminary surveys with healthcare professionals earlier revealed a critical gap in understanding that precluded efficient waste disposal. This has been further aggravated by the current pandemic-related waste.
New Resource: In order to strengthen the compliance and implementation of recent rules, Centre for Chronic Disease Control (CCDC) along with Centre for Environmental Health (CEH)−Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) has developed the Pictorial Guide on Biomedical Waste Management Rules 2016. It is a compilation of important strategies that are key to appropriate management of BMW in India. These include presentation of the important elements of BMW management in an illustrative format thus aiming to overcome the barriers in understanding the comprehensive rules and facilitating implementation by healthcare workers on the ground. The pictorial guide brings out the narrative on recent policy initiatives taken up by the Government of India. It has been developed through consultations with the healthcare representatives from both public and private sector besides content experts. The pictorial has been endorsed by the MoEFCC. Given the ongoing CoVID-19 crisis, the guide also has dedicated sections on CoVID-19 waste management based on the recent guidelines. Individual sections of the guide can be printed and displayed as appropriate in different parts of a healthcare facility as a ready-to-use guide to waste disposal.
Dissemination: The pictorial guide is proposed to be utilised in training and capacity building sessions of Health and Environment Leadership Platform (HELP) member hospitals and beyond. HELP is India counterpart of Global Green Healthy Hospitals (GGHH), which brings together Indian health sector leaders to voice their concern and show leadership on the impact of environmental risk factors for ill health. The guide has been widely disseminated through our networks. Webinars and online trainings will also be provided on request. For further information, please write to [email protected].