While over 83,000 persons involved in the fight against Covid-19 have been inoculated so far in Pune district, an overlooked lot of about 60 frontline workers who are shouldering a key responsibility in the battle are feeling left behind. These are staffers at the Common Bio-Medical Waste Treatment Facilities (CBWTF), who have collected and disposed of over 1,100 tonnes of Covid-related waste from public and private hospitals in the last 11 months.
There are two biomedical waste processing plants in Pune district – one for Pune city located at Sangawadi and another for Pimpri-Chinchwad located at Yashwantrao Chavan Municipal Hospital – which are responsible for collecting biomedical waste from 5,500 healthcare establishments and then incinerating or recycling it. The operations of CBWTFs have been outsourced to Passco Environmental Solutions – a private firm contracted by Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporations.
Over a dozen vans collect the biomedical garbage every day and transfer them to these facilities. At the start of the pandemic in March, the Sangamwadi plant was getting about 250 kg of Covid-19 related waste every day, which was to be handled with extreme care and incinerated immediately. This went up to 6,000 kg per day during the month of July, when the virus was spreading in the city at a very fast rate.
“We put our lives on the line to fight the pandemic and we are proud of this fact. You can imagine the risk of handling the stuff, which has been used during the treatment of Covid-19. We were hoping that the this will be kept in mind while providing the vaccine. However, I get to read news reports of government workers who were sitting at home or offices during the pandemic, and are getting the shots, while there’s no talk about us. This is really disheartening for my team,” said Prabir Shil, plant manager at the Sangamwadi CBWTF.
According to officers at Passco Environmental Solutions, when the PMC was preparing a list of frontline workers to provide preferential vaccination shots, it had provided the count of its workers to get the vaccination.
Satish Satarkar, a manager at Passco, said, “We are waiting for instructions from the PMC to get our staff inoculated.”
When contacted, Additional Municipal Commissioner Rubal Agarwal promised that staffers at the biomedical waste management plant will get the shot in a few days.
“We had asked all the contractors who employed these frontline workers. If they had registered to get the vaccines, I will arrange that these staffers, who are working for disposal of biomedical waste, get the vaccine shots immediately,” said Agarwal.
The facility at Sangamwadi presently has one incinerator with a capacity to process 150 kg biomedical waste per hour. Considering the increasing need of the city and in order to create potential to deal with sudden rise in the inflow, as has happened since March 2020, the administration is putting up two more incinerators at the plant.
“Two incinerators, each having a capacity to process 300 kg per hour, are being put up. This will be ready in a few months,” said Shil.
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