Recycled medical waste floods city

“It’s wobbly with a crooked needle and a depressed piston. The tip looks blunt, the cap is loose and the tube has a pale exterior. ‘For single use only‘ says the instruction printed on the syringe but it looks far from a fresh one, safe enough for use.

“And it is not the only one which doctors at SSKM Hospital suspect to have been recycled from clinical wastes that are routinely dumped in the hospital backyard, in violation of a norm which requires every clinical establishment to dispose medical refuse in separate bags.

“Hundreds of syringes, saline bottles, blood bags, slides and other medical equipment – all recycled – are believed to have infiltrated SSKM through a network that has been active for some years.The result could be disastrous and might have started taking effect already, fear doctors.

“The Times of India¬†got hold of a syringe bearing lot number 11071 bought by the hospital in June. Tightly wrapped in a transparent packet, it looks like any other syringe. But you have to open the wrapper and hold the syringe to know the difference. The piston is unsteady and loose while the needle is blunt. “It could cause injury.More importantly, it’s clear that this is a recycled product and could be carrying deadly germs. Hepatitis B is the most common virus that recycled instruments like these could be carrying. Even HIV can’t be ruled out,” said Rezaul Karim, a senior faculty member at the hospital.

This sadly not uncommon picture of the realities of unsafe healthcare caused by the illicit salvage and re-use of items from clinical wastes in the reality today in Kolkata (Calcutta) and in many other locations worldwide.

Who is to blame for this? There are those who might blame politicians, or even the world community for not providing sufficient aid to make this deadly trade unnecessary. That may be correct, but nearer to home there are those within the hospitals that

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