IMA seeks phase wise implementation of barcode system for disposal of bio-medical waste


The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has urged the Union government to implement barcode system for disposal of bio-medical waste in healthcare facilities in a phased manner to ensure health establishments’ cent per cent compliance with it.

All the large hospitals and nursing homes should be covered in the first phase. Later it should be extended to other health establishments. Currently it is infeasible for scores of small clinics faced with resource constraints to put in place requisite infrastructure to implement it, said Dr KK Aggarwal, national president of IMA while commenting on Union environment ministry’s recent draft guidelines for bar code system to be adopted in compliance to the Bio-Medical Waste Management (BMWM) Rules, 2016 by a healthcare facility (HCF) and operator of a Common Biomedical Waste Treatment Facility (CBWTF) that helps in tracking of waste from source. 

BMWM Rules, 2016 notified on 28.03.2016 by the MoEF & CC under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, under Rule 4, stipulates that it is the duty of every HCF to establish a bar code system for bags or containers containing bio-medical waste to be sent out of the premises or place for any purpose within one year from the date of notification. Also, Rule 5 of the BMWM Rules, 2016 stipulates that it is the duty of every operator to establish bar coding system for handling of bio-medical waste.

The draft guidelines will be finalized after consultation with all stakeholders. 

While all the steps mentioned in the draft guidelines are welcome as they will keep a check on improper disposal of bio-medical waste, it will take time for small clinics to adopt barcode system, Dr Aggarwal said.

Dr Kaur said “Healthcare as an industry creates a huge amount of bio-medical waste and its disposal needs to be put in an organized manner. Currently, in the absence of tracking, standardized procedures and effective execution of existing processes there is a lot of direct impacts generated on the health of our environment. Improper disposal of bio-medical waste can not only cause the probable spread of infections but also pollute our natural resources like water, land, and air by ending up in random landfills. The Union Ministry’s guidelines for bar code system for bio-medical waste disposal is definitely a great step to minimise the impact it might have on the environment and we support it whole heartedly. It would give us an opportunity to do our bit in making this world a better, healthier, and safe place to live in.”

Bar code system will also help in identification of source of generation in case waste is disposed of improperly as well as quantification of bio-medical waste generated, colour coding-wise waste handed over to the CBWTF operator by the healthcare facility, for further treatment and disposal in accordance with the BMWM Rules, 2016.

Biomedical waste comprises human and animal anatomical waste, treatment apparatus like needles, syringes and other materials used in health care facilities in the process of treatment and research. This waste is generated during diagnosis, treatment or immunisation in hospitals, nursing homes, pathological laboratories, blood bank. Now, vaccination, blood donation and surgical camps have also been brought under the ambit of the new rules. 

The proposed guidelines suggested colour-coded bags containing pre-printed bar coded labels for handling the waste. It also specified that the bar code should have details like name of the healthcare facility, place and postal code, a unique number of the bag/containers and the thickness of bag.

It also said that the bar-coded label should be tamper-proof, water-proof, should be able to resist temperatures, pressures, should not have any trace of heavy metals or any other objectionable chemical constituent, should be non-porous plastic and should be of acrylic-based adhesive etc.

The quantum of waste generated in India is estimated to be 1-2 kg per bed per day in a hospital and 600 gm per day per bed in a clinic. 85% of the hospital waste is non-hazardous, 15% is infectious/hazardous. Mixing of hazardous results into contamination and makes the entire waste hazardous. Hence there is necessity to segregate and treat. Improper disposal increases risk of infection; encourages recycling of prohibited disposables and disposed drugs; and develops resistant microorganisms.

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