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Hazardous medical waste in your home?

Hazardous medical waste, much of it contaminated with infectious agents, is often sold to scrap dealers . They in turn bring the waste to recycling workshops, where workers create consumer goods for daily use.

Vietnam, Bach Mai Hospital, waste treatment

Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi

This reportage, by a group of Doi Song & Phap luat’s newspaper, about the fate of medical waste has stirred public concern.

Several tons of hazardous waste from Bach Mai Hospital, the biggest state-owned hospital in Hanoi, is brought into the community’s life every day. It is not an above-board operation.

There is no stable schedule for the hazardous waste trade. Local residents on Phuong Mai Street, located next to Bach Mai, said they can see workers of the hospital selling waste to scrap iron dealers 5-7 times a day. Sometimes the transactions take place at night.

“The trade depends on the goods supply,” said Le Hoa Vinh, a local resident. “The sellers are mostly nurses and hospital orderlies. Sometimes they need several days to gather goods, but sometimes they have enough goods to sell every day”.

In general, they have to draw up perfect plans to go through the “checkpoints”. They have to collect the hospital items, classify them and then arrange them into different bags. Sometimes the waste is smuggled out by their relatives, who do not attract the attention of security guards.

The residents said the “commodities” are diverse. They could be needles, gloves or the things patients leave  after they come out of hospital.

“All of them, sellers and buyers, touch the waste with their bare hands,” Vinh noted.

Could these same materials end up in the hands of producers of consumer goods made for people’s daily use?

No one would imagine that a small, 30 square meter house on Phuong Mai Street could be a big medical waste depot. The signboard over the entrance indicates that the shop specializes in collecting old electronics .

In fact, it collects medical waste from Bach Mai as well as the Central Dermatology and Venerology Hospital.

The waste, after being collected by the shop, is sold to merchants from Bac Ninh and Hai Duong Provinces, or from Trieu Khuc Village in Hanoi, who bring it to their home villages to sell to production workshops.

After three days of lying in wait in front of the shop, reporters encountered a girl in the uniform of Bach Mai Hospital coming and selling waste. The waste was carried in bags specially made for the hospital.

Linh, the girl, said she is a nurse at Bach Mai, and that she sells medical waste to get extra money.

According to Linh, Bach Mai is a general hospital, therefore it is easy to collect medical waste for sale. The only difficulty is in carting it away.

“The plastics from medical waste all have high quality. Therefore, they can go for good prices,” she said.

“In fact, not only us, but security guards also sell medical waste,” she added. “They seize our bags and later sell them to scrap iron dealers”.


(7/3/2014 3:13:15 PM)

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