Kavitha, a resident of EVR Road, in Puthur, Trichy districs alleges she has been dealing with the persistent problem of unhygienic and unsafe dumping of waste from Sundaram Hospital located next door, for the past seven years. But now with the hospital taking in COVID-19 patients, Kavitha fears for the safety of her aged mother and her two children.
On Tuesday morning, Shivam, Kavitha’s husband who presently lives in the United States of America, tweeted pictures and videos that showed bags of waste strewn across a narrow verandah, right next to Kavitha’s house. In the video, bags of trash can be seen precariously piled up on the compound wall, while some are falling onto the road.
@NHM_TN @drharshvardhan @Vijayabaskarofl @CMOTamilNadu 1) I'm residing in Trichy, EVR Road Puthur Trichy. Next to my House Sundaram Hospital who are admitting COVID-19 Patients.Around this hospital, it's full of resident areas.They don't have any SPACE available and NOT maintain— shivam (@akmtShivesh) July 14, 2020
Soon after Shivam flagged the issue, Dr Ananda Kumar, Nodal officer at Tamilnadu government multi super speciality hospital, Omandurar Government Hospital tweeted that action was initiated by local authorities and the waste has been removed immediately.
Speaking to TNM, he says, “The Joint Director of Health Department in Trichy immediately visited the hospital and acted on the request. Moreover, the waste kept outside was not biomedical waste but only non-medical waste. Biomedical waste is put in proper yellow bags and disposed carefully as per norms. But we have now ensured no waste is dumped in that veranda to make sure it does not inconvenience the neighbourhood.”
When TNM reached out to the hospital authorities they claimed that medical waste is cleared every day. “We clear medical waste daily and it is taken to Sengipatti,” they said.
When asked about the photos shared by Shivam on the internet, the hospital staff admitted that it has been a regular complaint from their neighbour. “We keep it there so that we can quickly transfer it to the vehicle that comes for pick up. Now after they have made the complaint, we have changed it to a different place,” he adds.
Sundaram Hospital that has been treating COVID-19 patients since July, currently has 10 COVID-19 patients undergoing treatment at the hospital. According to Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) guidelines for disposing biomedical waste generated during treatment, diagnosis and quarantine of patients confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19, waste generated should be collected and labelled as COVID-19 waste. Storage should be done in a separate storage room prior to being transported to Common Bio-medical Waste Treatment Facility (CBWTF). The collection bins, trolleys, etc should be regularly disinfected.
However, Kavitha expresses concern to TNM. “This has been going on for years. About five to seven years ago, we escalated the issue to Commissioner level and they promised action. Still, things have not improved. We have been avoiding the area that comes close to the hospital’s compound wall,” she shares.
"We urgently request government officials to shift COVID-19 patients from this hospital to the other and to prevent the hospital from dumping its medical waste in places where residents can come into contact," she added.
Addressing Kavitha’s concern, Dr Ananda Kumar says, “The neighbourhood people are unduly worried about COVID patients in their locality. There is a safe distance between the buildings. Fear that COVID can spread through air has caused unwanted apprehension. This is not true and COVID-19 cannot spread by air beyond a certain distance. Patients are important. It is not right to cause social stigma at this point. We have to support each other.”