The Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) has made it clear that hospitals are inadequately disposing of their hazardous waste and burning it in the open. It has accused some high-profile names of blatantly violating almost every cleanliness rule. The Federal Government Tuberculosis Centre at Asghar Mall in Rawalpindi buries the sputum of patients in the ground, while Shifa Hospital at H-8 buries the incinerated waste in an inadequate pit - all causing ground and air pollution.

Most of these health facilities have no waste management standard operating procedures (SOPs), while the few that do try to manage their waste have a poor and insufficient criterion for disposing of dangerous throw away. According to an official, this hazardous hospital waste included human specimens, contaminated instruments, infectious tissues, chemicals and infectious waste generated by patients.

The major issue is with small private hospitals, pathological labs and clinics, who have no understanding and concept of handling the infectious waste. Private hospitals and clinics have commercial considerations and, therefore, cut on the waste management costs. On the other hand, public hospitals have budgetary constraints. There has always been a great deal of talk regarding cleanliness and hygiene of hospitals, one that is always brushed away or hushed up. If patients are paying hefty amount of money to go to hospitals, especially the private ones, do they not deserve to be treated with the best possible care?

The environment body found all hospitals mixing hazardous waste with the municipal waste. More than half of such health facilities with poor hospital waste management SOPs were served with notices. This is a good thing. What should be done is establishing a centralized facility for disposal of infectious waste away from human settlement and shutting down all incinerators within residential areas, besides treatment of infectious liquid waste before discharging it in municipal sewage system.

Hospital waste management was a serious issue and all the stakeholders should concentrate to resolve the problem directly affecting the human life and environment health. The government should provide ample funds as well. There is a need for training and capacity building not only for the staff but also for adopting information technology in data collection.