As dengue cases in the city continue to increase by the day, there is mounting pressure on the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to curb the spread of the debilitating disease. However, instead of taking more stringent measures against it, the PMC seems more interested in covering up the threat, and punishing others who attempt to reveal how serious the problem really is.
Medical waste continues to pile up in the hospital’s backyard as the administration says that PMC is no longer assisting with waste disposal
If officials from the privately run Samarth Hospital are to be believed, the PMC has been harassing the hospital administration since they revealed the “real” magnitude of the threat about a fortnight ago. They have alleged that, in revenge, the PMC stopped collecting medical waste from the hospital premises, while lying in wait for the administration to flout regulations and dispose of the waste illegally.
Hospital chief Dr Suhas Kalshetty
In the second week of September, reports emerged that 55 dengue cases had been registered in one day alone. The figure indicated that the dengue threat was far greater than the PMC had led citizens to believe, and it set the alarm bells ringing.
While the PMC gave no confirmation of the number, a few Shiv Sena activists discovered that 20 of those cases had been recorded on the same day at the Navi Peth-situated Samarth Hospital alone. On September 9, the activists launched a protest at the office of S T Pardeshi, PMC’s acting health chief, and revealed that they had learnt about the real number of dengue cases at Samarth Hospital.
Busted! A fortnight ago, it was revealed that 20 dengue patients had been registered on the same day at Samarth Hospital, indicating that the dengue threat was greater than the PMC had made it out to be
According to Dr Suhas Kalshetty, the hospital chief, the PMC immediately stopped sending its team to collect medical waste from the hospital. The hospital administration stored the waste for a few days, but soon began to receive warnings from PMC officials to dispose of the accumulating waste.
“There are almost 20 patients admitted in the hospital and as a result of declaring the real number we are being targeted by the civic officials. The medical waste, including rubber tubes, IV sets, syringes, needles, etc. has increased since the dengue patients are also increasing,” said Dr Kalshetty.
Without the PMC’s help in waste disposal, the hospital staff were then forced to dump the waste outside the city limits, where another team of PMC officials was already waiting to catch them red-handed.
“Passco Environmental Solutions – which has a tie-up with the PMC to collect bio medical waste from hospitals – stopped sending its van to our hospital. For a few days, we stored the waste, but then the PMC officials from the Bhavani Peth ward started pressurizing us to dispose of it.
As a result, some of our employees took the waste to Warje, to dump it outside city, but another team of PMC officials from Warje-Karvenagar ward office was already present there to trap us,” said Dr Kalshetty, adding that he then paid the fine at the ward office on September 18.
Even now however, the hospital is struggling with a build-up of waste, with more than three days’ worth lying in the backyard currently.
“Passco’s vehicle doesn’t come to our hospital, and even if it does, the officials don’t come upstairs to inform us. We have to wait for them for long periods. Earlier, they used to come to collect the garbage and take our signature on a paper, but now they are not following the old procedure,” said Priya Thopte, administrative head at Samarth Hospital.
Shiv Sena leader, Ajay Bhosale, who was amongst the protestors at the PMC health department, said, “We were just demanding that PMC do something to stop the increasing number of dengue patients. Along with Samarth Hospital, we had named other hospitals as well, where the number of dengue-affected patients has increased. After our agitation, the PMC fumigated the entire area to prevent dengue, but it was done just once.”
The other side
PMC officials meanwhile, have denied any such harassment tactics, and said they are simply doing their duty.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Rajendra Jagtap said, “I am unaware about the Samarth Hospital issue, but we have undertaken a drive to prevent the spread of dengue, and hence hospitals are being directed to clear all their medical waste immediately.”
And while Samarth Hospital has alleged that the Warje-Karvenagar ward colluded with the PMC health department to harass and trap the hospital staff, Deepak Dhelwan, health inspector at the ward office said, “It is our duty to do patrolling in morning and night shifts. We patrol randomly in the areas, especially in the night, because people tend to throw garbage at isolated and open places in the dark.
Throwing garbage or bio-medical waste at open spaces and burning it is a crime, so we had to take action.” A representative of the Passco company said that they have continued to send the waste collection van to Samarth Hospital, but it’s the hospital staff that don’t bother to dispose of the waste. “We come everyday at the allotted time. Sometimes, we get late because of traffic. But we do call the hospital staff to bring the garbage down and they don’t come,” said the representative.
— Inputs by Sanjeevani Didmishe