MANILA -- More than 630,000 metric tons of medical waste from Philippine hospitals were collected in the first half of the year alone, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Data from the Online Hazardous Waste Management System of the DENR showed that from January to June, 634,687 metric tons of healthcare waste were collected from hospitals throughout the country.
In an interview Monday, Philippine Hospital Association President Dr. Jaime Almora said this is expected because hospitals are now overwhelmed with COVID-19 and non-COVID cases.
“Unlike the past months or yung nagsimula ang pandemic na dumami ang COVID pero kumonti naman ang non-COVID cases, kaya yung waste namin hindi naman ganung kataasan. Bumabalik na kasi [ngayon] ‘yung mga pasyente. At hindi lang ‘yun. Dahil tag-ulan ngayon, lumalabas yung mga respiratory infections, yung gastrointestinal infections, dengue, trangkaso, influenza. At yun ang nagpapadami sa mga admission ngayon,” said Almora.
He added that waste management is difficult for hospitals, since a bulk of the hazardous waste is made up of used intravenous plastic bottles, and there is a separate fee being collected by third-party treatment, storage, and disposal facilities for these.
“Nahihirapan kami dahil malaki ang binabayad namin. And lahat ng gastusin ng hospital, lalo ng private hospitals, walang ibang magbabayad niyan kundi ang pasyente. Kung bibili ka ng IV fluid, idadagdag na diyan yung bayad sa pagbabasura niyan,” he said.
Almora said the DENR and Department of Health have set rules for hospitals to segregate regular hospital waste from COVID-19 waste and hazardous waste. But because of the surge in COVID-19 cases, these rules are probably already being neglected by some hospitals.
“Possible kasi, sa laki ng waste na nage-generate at yung manpower, pwedeng nagkasakit rin yan. May possiblility ma-neglect, walang gumagawa, tsaka pwedeng naghahalo-halo. Yung fast turnaround ng empleyado 'pag bago yung personnel, possible na hindi niya habit mag-segregate, kung saan-saan niya tinatapon,” he said.
Environment Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management Benny Antiporda said the DENR in 2020 created a COVID-19 waste management plan, which covered the segregation and treatment of COVID-19 and hazardous waste.
“Bago ito pick-upin ng Treatment, Storage, and Disposal facility (TSD facility) from hospital, kailangan may treatment na sila onsite bago nila ikarga doon sa truck. Pagdating sa kanilang facility, either itreat nila ulit, yung tinatawag na thermal treatment kung saan sinusunog especially yung highly contagious na mga hospital waste. And meron din naman tayo na special cell na nakahiwalay sa domestc waste. Ang importante dito ay 'di to mahalo sa domestic waste,” Antiporda said.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) released a memo circular instructing local government units to adopt the said plan, but not all LGUs may have followed the protocols.
“It boils down to the funding. Funds pa rin ang lagi nilang sinasabi, na it was spent for the COVID-19 solution nila wherein nale-left behind naman yung issue tungkol sa basura. Ang sinasabi natin dito, 'wag ipagwalang-bahala,” he said.
Antiporda said households with identified COVID-19 positive patients should also be strict in segregating regular waste from COVID-19 waste.
“Ihiwalay lang po natin yung galing doon sa nag-positive dahil naka-isolate sa isang lugar o kwarto. Lahat po ng gamit niya na itinapon ay kailangan pong nakahiwalay. Lalagyan lang po natin ng label na 'COVID-19' yung basura. Pwede niyong gawin yan. Ibig sabihin, huwag bubuksan, huwag kakalkalin. Kailangan ma-treat 'yan bago itapon.”