MK's Proposal Would Close Hole in Disposal and Disclosure of Medical Waste

Environmental and medical experts are issuing sharp warnings about haphazard handling of medical waste in the country. They charge that there is no systematic monitoring of the way such waste is handled. Nor, they say, are medical institutions required to relay adequate information about the scope of the waste they produce and the way the refuse is handled.

These irregularities are liable to cause grave environmental and health problems, they say.

A group headed by Kadima MK Dr. Rachel Adatto intends to submit a proposed revision to public health regulations which would require orderly disclosure about the quantity of medical waste, and processes by which it is handled.

Findings regarding the treatment of medical waste will be presented tomorrow at a "Green Health" conference about the health system and environmental challenges connected to it. The conference will be held by the Kupat Holim Clalit health maintenance organization and the Netanya Academic College.

The waste in question includes remains of medicine, syringes and other sharp instruments, and remains of medical exams. Gadi Cohen, Clalit deputy director general for logistics, says that Clalit handles some 15 million liters of waste products annually.

The waste comes from 14 hospitals affiliated with the HMO, and the chain of clinics run by Clalit. According to officials at the Environmental Protection Ministry, the total annual quantity of medical waste is some 2,400 tons.

The ministry is supposed to be responsible for monitoring the handling of medical waste.

Attorney Tzipora Iser-Itzik, from the Netanya College, says that current ministry regulations do not include any duty of disclosure and listing regarding the scope of waste produced by medical institutions, and the way they are handled.

"Unlike many countries in the world, not every type of medical waste is included in these regulations, and there is no clear definition of the way waste is managed, to ensure that it does not become hazardous," she said.

Iser-Itzik added that the "main concern regarding environmental and health risks does not involve the large medical institutions, which handle waste in an orderly fashion. Instead, the concern pertains to hundreds and thousands of small clinics."

The revision proposed by Adatto's group stipulates that the environmental protection minister issue clear definitions of types of medical waste. The revision imposes legal obligations on the way such materials are handled by institutions that produce medical waste, along with disclosure obligations.