Matters India |Saturday, December 16, 2017
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A Public sector hospital shows the way through the ‘green protocol’ 

Dr. George Jacob

The first quarter of 2017 coinciding with the onset of the Southwest Monsoon witnessed citizens of Kerala succumb to fevers of assorted kinds smudging the otherwise unblemished image of the state on the health front. Over 200 fell to dengue, H1N1, Leptospirosis, and even Malaria. Malaria was thought to have been eradicated from the state.

The single most important factor that caught the state napping is waste, the dumping yard of which Kerala has surely come to be. The bio nondegradable material like plastic which formed the chunk of the waste clogged drains and canals in which mosquitoes, especially those belonging to the species Aedes Aegypti bred. Aedes mosquito is the one responsible for spreading diseases like dengue and Chikungunya. Dengue claimed most lives in Kerala this year. Plastic found in heaps of waste also formed indestructible crucibles in which these mosquitoes bred. Remains of food left in disposable plates made of plastic and thermocol attracted rats and stray dogs, which contributed by spreading diseases like leptospirosis and rabies respectively. Stray dogs in Kerala have turned man-eaters like never before for some strange reason. Attacks by the otherwise harmless stray dogs left gory injuries on Kerala’s citizens. Even infants playing in their own front yards were not spared. Local governing bodies like corporations and panchayaths persisted with their lackadaisical approach towards scientific waste management. The southwest monsoon which kept its date with Kerala’s coast to the dot caught them sleeping. If they had cleaned and unclogged the drains and canals much before the monsoons, this epidemic could have been prevented to a large extent. This is not to lay the blame entirely on the local governing bodies. Citizens, whose responsibility also it is to contribute to proper waste disposal continues with their littering ways. They spare no empty plot of land or even thoroughfares, to throw away waste generated in their homes tied up in plastic carry bags. The Dos and don’ts with regard to proper waste management were flouted by the government and the citizens together, and all hell broke loose!

Hospitals overflowed with patients in the grip of fever. Over 200 lost their lives ‘to just a fever’, as many said. These were not ‘just a fever’ by any means. Even high-end treatment employing ventilators and strong antibiotics in tertiary referral canters failed to save patients. A disgraced Kerala stood with her head bowed with shame and hurt ego. As the government and the opposition habitually traded charges and responsibility shunted from shoulder to shoulder, more people continued to die in India’s ‘healthiest state’.

In the ensuing darkness, a hospital in the public sector decided to be a trail blazer, to turn things around. To contribute to nip in the bud the real culprit behind the wails that rose from the state-plastic.

The government-run District General Hospital in Cochin through a maiden initiative ever to be undertaken by any hospital, be it private, or public in the country decided to employ the ‘green protocol’.

What is GREEN PROTOCOL?

It is essentially a set of measures which result in significantly reducing the generation of waste. Its primary focus is on curbing the use of disposables and promoting reusable alternatives like glass, stainless steel and porcelain cutlery and vessels, virtually rendering the question of ‘waste management’ nonexistent.

The innovative steps put in place by the hospital authorities are:
• To ban carrying or using things or disposables made from plastic inside the hospital premises.
• Not to serve food in the hospital canteen on disposable plates. Plastic would make way to steel and ceramic plates.
• To charge an additional Rs.30 on potable water in plastic bottles bought from the canteen and kiosks next door. The extra money would be refunded when and if the empty bottles are returned to respective counters or at the hospital gate. These bottles would then be sent for recycling. This is a novel plan never executed before in any public facility, and something which is verily emulable.
• To educate the public and to create public awareness about the need for having embarked on the green protocol by distributing pamphlets and by printing Suchitwa messages on OP tickets and sign boards, and through announcements over the hospital’s public address system, and by playing Suchitva mission videos on LED TVs.
• To install separate water coolers and water facilities within wards to decrease dependence on potable water being sold in plastic bottles.
• To educate and earn the cooperation of shop and kiosk owners near the hospital premises.
• To rope in self-governing bodies like the corporation to attest a stamp of governmental involvement and approval in the entire effort.
• By counseling bystanders on ways to reduce use of plastic.

It is indeed heartening to note with great deal of appreciation, the path the government-owned health facility has taken to counter the plastic menace. It is a commendable and the right kind of start. The concept of the green protocol can be extended to functions like parties and wedding receptions which churn out plastic by way of disposable plates, glasses and bottles by the ton. The practice of providing every guest with potable water in a plastic bottle, and serving food on disposable plastic plates and glasses ought to be done away with step by step. Paper cups and ceramic plates can instead be used. The cost of broken ceramic vessels can be borne by the host.

Green protocol can also be extended to every sphere of human existence in the entire country. Plastic carry bags must give way to newspapers in which stuff brought from shops can be secured with jute twines as in days of old, and in paper bags, made out of old newspaper or magazines, which could be developed into a small scale industry in itself. Plastic carry bags must be entirely banned from this nation for waste management to proceed along manageable lines. Vectors of diseases like rats, mosquitoes and dogs can be denied breeding grounds in a big way if the green protocol is adopted in a big way throughout a populous country like India.

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