Case 1 :
She was a type 1 diabetic and takes 4 insulin injections a day. She collected the day’s garbage including all the leftovers, needles, lancets, medicine vials and dumped everything together into the trash bin outside the house gate. The sweeper came every morning to collect the trash from the bin. Somehow the needle cover detached and it poked out of the polybag. It hurt the sweeper. He simply ignored it and continued with the work. She is unaware of it happening. But who is at fault?
Case 2 :
She is a type 1 diabetic and takes insulin shots 4 times a day. She collects empty cardboard boxes whenever she can find one. Every day when she takes a shot, she leaves the needle and lancets in one box. She also keeps the empty insulin vials in another box so as to keep the left over medicine separate. Every morning the sweeper would come to empty the trash bins but she would keep the boxes with herself. Once the boxes were full, she would tape them with a sturdy brown tape and label it “biomedical waste” and leave it at the nearest hospital the next day. The sweeper is not prone to being injured now. 🙂
I had never been educated about diabetes waste and so I was very much like the irresponsible diabetic depicted in case 1 until last year. I would always keep the needles capped when I put them in trash but it never came to my mind that “What if it opens or falls off?” Last year, while on an assignment about waste disposal, I was enlightened about the risks I was putting the workers into. They could easily get injured by the biomedical waste. And since then I have been collecting the needles, lancets and vials in thick cardboard boxes just like these pictures below. I plan to leave them at the nearest hospital once they fill up so that the sorting is as per guidelines.
Unfortunately, waste treatment in India is in a very sorry state. The collection, segregation and disposal is haphazard. The situation is not even getting a tenth of the attention it requires. I’m sure you may have witnessed heaps of open garbage sights in your vicinities.
Quoting from Wikipedia page on ‘Biomedical waste’, “Many studies took place in Gujarat, India regarding the knowledge of workers in facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, or home health. It was found that 26% of doctors and 43% of paramedical staff were unaware of the risks related to biomedical wastes.” Now, if the doctors do not know about the system, how can we expect the patients to know?
I have been to many diabetologists. Their rooms are full of informational posters about treatment, management, medicines, machines and complications, but never do I see one that depicts the amount of medical waste a type 1 diabetic produces and how should one manage it. Neither did I get any education about it during my diagnosis and treatment. There are approximately 387 crore diabetics around the world (Dainikbhaskar.com August 3, 2015). Usually only type 1 diabetics (on injections) need to care about this issue, but many a times type 2 diabetics (on oral medicines) are also put on insulin injections to overcome the fluctuations in blood sugar. So the need of awareness and proper system for disposal is immense.
Thus, I believe there’s a need for the government to understand the gravity of the situation and come up with campaigns to increase awareness about diabetes waste treatment which is being totally neglected. India being the diabetes capital already, needs a robust waste collection system and treatment method in order to tackle the problem before the issue becomes irreparable. Why are there no informational advertisements on television? Why are there no banners or ads on paper? You’ll be shocked to know that the amount of deaths due to diabetes is far more than tuberculosis in India and still the attention diabetes needs is far lesser. Since the initiatives from the side of the government are so weak, it is required that we do the best we can ourselves until we have the power to change the system. A little initiative like collecting medical waste in cardboard boxes and putting it in bags labeled ‘biomedical waste’ can make a huge difference. And I believe this is true for any biomedical waste, so anyone with such a problem can follow suit and sort the waste.