CHENNAI: After facing a lot of flak for allegedly disposing of biomedical waste unscientifically, prompting the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to order a CB-CID inquiry, the State hospitals are taking the battle to the Central government demanding certain amendments to the Centre Pollution Control Board (CPCB) rules that will differentiate healthcare establishments from the industry sector.
Some of the key demands include having a separate fee structure for hospitals. The Indian Medical Association, which is having 4,000-odd hospitals in Tamil Nadu as members, has sought appointment with Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) Prakash Javadekar.
“In all probability, we will meet the Union Minister by this month-end. There are some serious discrepancies in the regulatory norms and the hospitals have become a soft target,” said Dr TN Ravishankar, president, IMA.
As per the existing rules, anyone who wants to set up a hospital or healthcare unit has to fill in an online application form for obtaining Consent to Establish (CoE) under the Tamil Nadu Water and Air Acts. The form available with the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) clearly says it is a “form for industries”. The details sought include type of fuel used, raw materials used and products manufactured etc. “This makes the form irrelevant for hospitals. Even the consent-to-operate and renewal forms pertain only to industries. We want a separate form for hospitals, which seek details like number of beds and quantity of effluent generated,” Dr Ravishankar said.
Besides, consent fee is calculated based on asset and machinery value of the hospital and not on number of beds and quantity of discharge emanating from hospitals. The hospitals argue that the biomedical waste/liquid waste that is generated from huge diagnostic centre cannot be compared with the waste generated from 10-bed maternity units. “The gross fixed assets value of a diagnostic centre with MRI scans and other equipments runs into several crores of rupees, but generates least amount of effluents. However, a small maternity unit generates high dosage of effluents. The healthcare sector should be classified as hospitals, diagnostic centre, nursing homes and clinics so that we we will get a clear picture about who generates solid and liquor biomedical waste and how much is generated,” IMA members asserted.
Another concern expressed by the IMA was that hospitals are forced to pay authorisation fee for disposal of liquid waste to the TNPCB for no service rendered. For solid biomedical waste, the hospitals are engaging an authorised common treatment service provider, but for liquid waste there is no one to collect. The big hospitals have septic tanks and in-house treatment plants. The hospitals in the suburbs have no idea how to discharge the liquid waste. This is where violations are happening, said Anand David, counsel for IMA in NGT.
Activist Jawaharlal Shanmugam, petitioner in biomedical case, also echoed the sentiments of the IMA in the matter. The Pollution Control Board can’t treat manufacturing industries and hospitals on the same level. “I have highlighted all these issues in my suggestion report,” he said.
In all probability, we will meet the Union Minister by this month-end. There are some serious discrepancies in the regulatory norms and the hospitals have become a soft target
-Dr Ravishankar,IMA president