CHENNAI: If all goes as planned, Tamil Nadu will become the first State with separate policy guidelines for laundry of ‘infectious’ hospital linen. The State government has initiated the process and held a preliminary meeting on March 31 with stakeholders, including traditional washermen in dhobi khanas.
Speaking to Express, J Radhakrishnan, Principal Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare, said the meeting was fruitful and it would be a broad-based policy with focus on patient safety. The interests of traditional washermen would also be taken into consideration and protected.
He said the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) will be asked to issue necessary consents to dhobi khanas if they reform and comply with safety standards. Suggestions are invited from all concerned. The top bureaucrat conceded that there was an ambiguity in present law about the definition of reusable hospital linen and ways of treating it.
This newspaper had earlier revealed that many private hospitals are using unsafe means to treat reusable hospital linen. Later, the National Green Tribunal passed an order last month, highlighting a grey area in the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016.
“The Rule must distinguish linen which is reusable and that which is to be discarded. In the absence of such an amendment, either the State Government or the Board or the Central Government can invoke Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986,” the tribunal said in its order dated March 15, 2017.
Social activist Jawaharlal Shanmugam, petitioner in the biomedical waste case in NGT, welcomed the action by the State government. PV Raja, owner of Sailakshmi Power Laundry in Medavakkam, said the government should protect washermen.