KARACHI, July 17: Eighteen new Suzuki pickups given to Karachi under the Prime Minister’s programme for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis have been gathering dust in the open on a government hospital premises for over 10 months, it emerged on Tuesday.
Some of the vehicles delivered to the Karachi Municipal Corporation in 2011 were also used for some internal spray during the last dengue epidemic peak months in the city, while the authorities concerned are largely indecisive about a purposeful utilisation of the entire fleet of the vehicles, worth about Rs9.5 million, said a source in the provincial health department.
It is learnt that Islamabad had handed over the vehicles to Karachi’s health administration for transporting hospital waste from clustering hospitals to incinerators.
According to an official associated with the national hepatitis prevention and control initiatives launched in 2005 and now defunct in the post-devolution scenario, the hospital waste management system was a very important component of the hepatitis control programme and it could be described as to a great extent medical waste is responsible for the spread of hepatitis.
Under the PM’s hepatitis control programme, installation of double burner incinerator with scrubber was necessary at all district headquarters hospitals or teaching hospitals where there was no incinerator, the official said.
The vehicles were needed to transport medical waste to incinerators.
The PM’s programme had handed over pickups to eight districts —Badin, Dadu, Sanghar, Tando Allahyar, Jamshoro, Tharparkar, Sukkur and Khiarpur — nominated by the Sindh government, in addition to Karachi which was provided the vehicles in the second run, the former official said.The official said that it was the responsibility of districts and the KMC to maintain the vehicles and use them for the hospital waste management.
The 18 pickups guarded by two private security guards are parked on the premises of a hospital in North Karachi and need repairs.
A source said the vehicles were gathering dust and rusting in the open and Rs50,000 to Rs70,000 might be needed to make them operable.
The source said the authorities concerned needed to wake up soon as a couple of batteries of the vehicles had already been stolen.
A source in the municipal corporation said the KMC medical department was avoiding the matter as it would have to spend about Rs50,000 on each vehicle for fittings and coverings to make the vehicles usable in carrying away hospital and infectious waste, in addition to sparing drivers and workers, providing oil and lubricants and bearing their cost of maintenance.
“Since the vehicles are meant for hospital waste management, they can also be handed over to the health services department of the KMC, which handles all solid waste and sanitation issues,” the source said.
Speaking to Dawn, the senior director of the KMC medical services, Dr Javed Nasir Sheikh, who was the executive director of the defunct City District Government Karachi, said that from time to time he had been raising the issue of the unused vehicles received from Islamabad with the high-ups and would also place the matter before the provincial health minister soon.
“I understand that the vehicles should be managed by the KMC,” he said while replying to another question and added that a former secretary of the health department had pointed out that since all the vertical health programmes run by the federal government had been devolved to the provinces since July 2011, the vehicles were the property of the provincial health department, which would ultimately decide about the proper utilisation of the vehicles.