A hospital can't be a heaven when the vicinity is a hell
Daily Mirror Editorial
Dec 22, 2011

The recent revelation by the Western Provincial Council's Environment Ministry that there is high prevalence of cancer among the residents living adjacent to the Maharagama Cancer Institute sent a shockwave around the country. According to the research, the clinical waste matter that contains radioactive substances has been identified as the main reason for the said high prevalence. Several newspapers went on to reveal that the water resources available to the residents are also contaminated by the said questionable substances and the height of chimneys that were set up to incinerate the clinical waste is much lower than the recommended measurements; as a result of which harmful gases produced in the incineration process invariably mix with the air breathed by people.

The incident showed that people are helpless when it comes countering large-scale haphazard clinical waste disposal which seems to be practised by most of the hospitals. However, this is not a situation only inherent to the Cancer Hospital; occasionally the stories of such nature flood the news rooms. Yet, no sustainable action had been taken so far to put an end to the inconvenience, which has now proven to be a disturbing cause that directly contributes to the number of deaths among the residents of those areas.

Be it the Cancer Institute or any other healthcare institution in the country, it is imperative that proper clinical waste disposal mechanism is followed to ensure the wellbeing of both the patients and the residents who live in the close proximity to such establishments. The situation in Maharagama however was not a sudden disaster situation discovered by accident; rather it has been prevailing for the past three decades which was mentioned over and again and shown the back seat with the so-called, more acute health concerns.

What is sad perhaps is that no one will realize the gravity of the situation as much as the residents who are the daily victims of the tragedy. Worse perhaps is that they have very little options to save themselves from the immediate danger of becoming the next cancer patient in the area. Just because the errant method of waste disposal could survive for so long , it should not be an excuse for the authorities to slack. Even though, the responsible bodies cannot perform miracles to heal those who already suffer from cancer due to the expose to radioactive substances, they should take immediate remedial measures to avoid recurrence of such situations. They should compel the hospitals to strictly adhere to a set of guidelines in disposing clinical waste and action should be followed against those who fail to obey them.

Undisputedly, the purpose of establishing hospitals is to cure the patients those who are in need of healthcare. However, this should be done without making the healthy residents, patients in the process of healing.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka