KARACHI - The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has issued the guidelines for handling and disposal of the waste generated by hospital facilities dealing with COVID-19 patients, which shall be enforced throughout Sindh. Every hospital owner, occupier, the operator shall be responsible for the management of hospital waste/handling of waste from COVID-19 patients generated by it till its final disposal in accordance with the provision of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act 2014 and its subsequent Hospital Waste Management Rules 2014, said a statement on Wednesday.

“The generator of waste that is hospital or facilities need to have administrative rules and engineering controls, environmental hygiene, correct work practices and appropriate use of PPE to prevent infections,” said the newly issued guidelines.  With regard to the waste collection procedure of hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, the guidelines require the procedures of transporting waste from the room (patient’s room or facility) where it is generated into the interim storage room and ultimately to the designated waste area.

From this designated area of the hospital, the waste then will be treated onsite or prepped for transportation offsite for treatment.  Guidelines also restrict that all waste must be packed in thick plastic bags and tied properly. Sharp and needles must be in their hard packing to avoid a breach of plastic bags. Another precaution, the tied bag should be kept in another plastic bag.

Moreover, thick plastic bags must be kept in hard closed containers. The plastic bags inside must not be visible from outside. The weight of one container shall not exceed 10 kilograms. The container shall be labeled as COVID-19 waste.

A record shall be maintained for all number of bags and containers filled with waste for transportation. The inner and outer surface of containers/bins/trolleys used for COVID-19 waste storage should be disinfected with 1 per cent sodium hypochlorite solution at least three times in a day. Treatment methods may also include autoclaving, incineration, chemical disinfection etc.

A dedicated team of workers assigned to handle this waste shall be available for the collection and handling of this waste. Staff handling this waste must use appropriate gadgets. Elaborating the waste transportation procedure the guidelines ask for the transportation of closed containers in dedicated vehicles for COVID 19 waste. The staff transporting the waste must use the Moreover, a record shall be maintained for the number of trips made mentioning the quantities received from each collection.

Vehicles should be sanitized with sodium hypochlorite or other appropriate disinfectants after each trip. The waste shall be disposed of immediately after being received at the incineration facility.

The workers must be tested for COVID 19 every alternate day. Workers with symptoms such as cough, fever or illness shall not be allowed to transport the waste. The workers must be sanitized on entry into the hospitals, quarantine centers, and waste disposal facilities every time they enter. In addition to above, the incinerator used to incinerate the waste generated from hospitals treating COVID-19 patients must be a double chamber, preferably plasma gasification (however this may be too expensive to operate), its primary chamber temperature should be greater than 800 degrees and that of secondary chamber greater than 1000 degree. “Both waste loading and ash removals should be automatic. It should have an appropriate emission control system.

Staff working on it should be trained and use PPEs. Ash of incinerator should be disposed of in the scientifically designated landfill”, concluded the referred guidelines.