The world is undergoing a period of cataclysmic biological disaster that has rendered majority in a state of socioeconomic and psychosocial crisis. Covid-19, apart from the ones directly affected by the virus has pulverized the mental health of people all around the globe. Every day we see videos and photos on the social media platforms of medicos wearing innovative homemade protective care equipment .These photos make us realize the pathetic condition of many health care systems across the globe. Though Covid-19 pandemic has added a plethora of problems, one different from the other but the issue of management of waste produced in isolation centers and other healthcare facilities dealing with Covid patients needs a specific and special management.
Biomedical Waste can generally be defined as the waste generated in the hospitals that is infectious or potentially infectious and needs to be managed under specific rules mentioned in the Biomedical Management rules, 2018 (last amended).The first scientific method to manage the Biomedical waste was developed in USA as early as in second half of the last decade of twentieth century. Today biomedical waste management practices which include; segregation, storage, transportation, handling and disposal of these potentially harmful wastes. The colour coding of dustbins that is followed everywhere helps in the segregation of the wastes which in turn helps in its handling. On an average the hospitals in developing countries produces 2.5 to 3 kg of waste per bed per day but Covid-19 has added to this .In view of the present crisis Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are added on a daily basis to the waste generated by the hospitals and isolation centers dealing with the crisis. The PPE generally consists of a protective gown, protective goggles, respirator (masks), and shoe cover, latex gloves along with other items which are mostly plastic products and weigh roughly around 1 - 2 kg depending on their type.
The PPE kits after use are contaminated and the level of contamination depends on the place of posting of a medical health worker who has used it. It could be low in quarantine centers, medium for staff working with asymptomatic patients and high in medical staff working in ICU and other aerosol producing settings. Being contaminated these PPE kits need a high level of expertise to handle them after segregation and the people dealing with this need to be given proper education related to management and handling of such an infectious waste. The PPE comprises of mostly plastic products and thus in itself is an environmental hazard beside being highly costly .The cost of an average a single PPE kit would be roughly above Rs2000. Segregation of these kits at the time of doffing needs to be followed cautiously.
The Covid-19 is not going any time sooner and nation states are facing an acute depletion of resources. Is the reusing of Personal Protective Equipment an option?
The PPE currently being used are not reused as there are no guidelines regarding the use of any of the items in a PPE kit from any of the Indian authorities rather AIIMS Delhi had previously prohibited the reuse of PPE. But if the proper disinfection techniques are used then the protective goggles, waist covers may be reused. Furthermore it would need a scientific method after proper research to find out, what and how we can reuse these items and prevent the resources getting depleted by avoiding environmental concerns and health hazards.