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Five-fold increase in clinical waste due to the pandemic situation in Lanka, says study



Report of the rapid assessment was handed over recently to Director General of Health Services Dr Asela Gunawardena by UNDP Resident Representative in Sri Lanka Robert Juhkam in the presence of Deputy Director General - Environmental and Occupational Health, Dr. V.T.S.K Siriwardana, Consultant Community Physician of the Environmental and Occupational Health Directorate, Dr. Inoka Suraweera and other representatives from UNDP Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has witnessed a five-fold increase in clinical waste due to the pandemic situation which has overwhelmed existing limited infrastructure and resources for health care waste management, creating an additional burden on health care facilities, says a rapid assessment on Health Care Waste Management in healthcare settings.

The rapid assessment conducted by the United Nations Development Programme at the request of the Health Ministry in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that many steps have been taken by the ministry in recent times for effective health care waste management in the aspects of policy and regulation, resource allocation, standardization, establishing in-house treatment and disposal systems for health care waste management.

However, several critical challenges were also identified including a five-fold increase in clinical waste due to the pandemic situation which has overwhelmed existing limited infrastructure and resources for health care waste management, creating an additional burden on Health Care Facilities (HCFs) and the ministry to safeguard staff as well as the environment. The report also highlighted the gendered nature of health care waste management, with over 80% of sanitation workers being women, which is largely unrecognized with increased exposure to risks and solid waste contamination.

Based on the outcomes of the rapid assessment, key recommendations have been made for the consideration of all healthcare sector stakeholders. A few of the recommendations include among others formalizing clinical waste disposal by private practitioners including Ayurvedic treatment centers with a payment system imposed upon the waste generators; strictly enforcement of the prohibition of open burning of clinical waste and introducing suitable arrangements for waste treatment at HCFs; dedicated and appropriate budgeting for Health Care Waste Management (HCWM); Introducing a Management Information System on ‘Build, Operate and Transfer’ basis for HCWM; Regularizing functions and empowerment of the Infectious Control Units to streamline healthcare waste management; and awareness creation, education and certification of all categories (medical and non-medical) in HCFs (Government and private) to improve health and safety aspects of treatment facilities.

Unsound management of healthcare waste could cause “knock-on” effects on human health and the environment. COVID-19 pandemic has created quite a strain on healthcare systems in terms of healthcare waste management and Sri Lanka is no exception.

Safe handling and final disposal of the waste is therefore a fundamental step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and whole product sustainability life cycle.

The report of the rapid assessment was handed over recently to Director General of Health Services Dr Asela Gunawardena by UNDP Resident Representative in Sri Lanka Robert Juhkam at a meeting attended by Deputy Director General – Environmental and Occupational Health, Dr. V.T.S.K Siriwardana, Consultant Community Physician of the Environmental and Occupational Health Directorate, Dr. Inoka Suraweera and other representatives from UNDP Sri Lanka.

Director General of Health Services, Dr Gunawardena, at the meeting said: “The Ministry is grateful to UNDP for carrying out the Rapid Assessment of Health Care Waste in Sri Lanka that has led to important findings and informed the developing of the Draft National Action Plan for Health Care Waste. I commend the progress made so far on the pilot project which will help to further improve the National Action Plan, and the Ministry looks forward to UNDPs support in the finalization and implementation of this Action Plan for Health Care Waste, at this critical juncture that the country is currently facing.”

UNDP Resident Representative,  Juhkam said: “UNDP is proud to support the Ministry of Health to help pave the way forward towards sustainable waste management in the health sector in Sri Lanka, bringing both environmental and safety benefits to communities and health workers. UNDP will continue its support to the Government through Health and Environment Ministries while bringing together relevant UN agencies and stakeholders to provide a well-coordinated effort in finalizing and implementing the National Action Plan for Health Care Waste Management.”

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Wimal asks for PSC probe into top officials’ complicity in violence



Colombo HC lawyers concerned over shocking developments

By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, MP, says a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) should be appointed to investigate the role played by IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Public Security Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. (retd.) Jagath Alwis in the recent SLPP hothead attack on those demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, including Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Weerawansa yesterday (18) told The Island that Parliament should inquire into the unprovoked attack that triggered an extremely violent response by the public as well as those awaiting an opportunity to unleash violence on selected group of lawmakers on 09 May.

The former Industries Minister said he was confident that Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, would look into the issues at hand.

Responding to another query, Weerawansa said that Senior DIG Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon’s claim that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary had interfered with his (Tennakoon’s) plan to disperse the SLPP mobs couldn’t be easily dismissed.

MP Weerawansa declared, in Parliament on Tuesday (17), that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry dissuaded the Senior DIG from performing his duties although he had received specific instructions from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to stop the march on Galle Face. The former JVPer questioned whether those conspirators wanted to show the world the failure on the part of the police and the armed forces to maintain law and order.

Asked whether police headquarters and the Public Security Ministry had responded to his accusations, Weerawansa said he hadn’t been contacted by them so far.

Pointing out that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), inquiring into 09 May turmoil had recorded Senior DIG’s statement, Weerawansa said that the outfit could issue an interim statement on the matter.

The Colombo High Court Lawyers’ Association said that the shocking revelation, made in Parliament, should be expeditiously inquired into.

The Association’s President Attorney-at-Law Lakshman Perera said that the ongoing investigations had taken an unexpected turn in the wake of high profile specific allegations pertaining to the conduct of the IGP, as well as the Public Security Ministry Secretary. Pointing out that the HRCSL and the CID had already recorded DIG Tennakoon’s statement, pertaining to the incidents, and the officer was among a group of 22 persons slapped with a travel ban by the Fort Magistrate, lawyer Perera said that the CID couldn’t turn a blind eye to accusations directed at the head of the department as well as Secretary to the relevant ministry.

Lawyer Perera said that investigations couldn’t be completed without verifying accusations made in Parliament.

Lawmaker Weerawansa said that the question was on whose behalf the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary intervened at a time the country was under emergency and after the Senior DIG in charge of Colombo received specific instructions from the President himself.

Although the SLPP goons did not shed any blood or cause any serious injuries, unlike the well-organized mobs that caused havoc across the country thereafter, MP Weerawansa said that he couldn’t comprehend why the police and the armed forces allowed the situation to develop to an extremely dangerous level.

The HRCSL in its initial reaction to the unprovoked attacks on those who had been demanding the resignation of the government condemned the violence caused by a group of people who made it very clear that violence was their intention.

HRCSL Chairperson retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe said: “The failure of the police to prepare for this eventuality and prevent and manage the violence and destruction is a gross failure of public order. There must be an immediate inquiry into this matter. The inaction of the police to prevent the clash is condemned.”

The Island brought the latest developments to the notice of the HRCSL yesterday as MP Weerawansa said that those who conspired and planned the project that involved those at the helm of Temple Trees then and the SLPP should be arrested. The conspirators shouldn’t be allowed to escape justice while the CID arrested those who carried out the actual attacks.

Police spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the department couldn’t respond to what transpired in Parliament. Acknowledging that he was aware of the allegations made in Parliament, Attorney-at-Law Thalduwa said in case their response was sought through proper channels, whatever the queries would be answered.

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Dr. Pathirana says IGP, Public Security Ministry Secy. allowed goon attacks



Galle District parliamentarian Dr. Ramesh Pathirana has reiterated that IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Secretary to the Public Security Ministry, Maj. General (retd) Jagath Alwis had facilitated the 09 May unprovoked attack on anti-government protesters.

The former Minister Pathirana declared in Parliament yesterday (18) that National Freedom Front (NFF) leader MP Wimal Weerawansa’s allegation, pertaining to the origins of the violence, was true.

Dr. Pathirana said that he was among those who had brought supporters to attend a meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The vast majority of those who attended the Temple Trees meet on May 09 wanted to thank the war-winning President as he gave up active politics, the MP said. However, some unscrupulous members had instigated the participants there.

Dr. Pathirana said he had been at Temple Trees at that time and as he feared violence could erupt due inflammatory speeches, contact was made with Senior DIG in charge of Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon. Dr. Pathirana said that the senior police officer had assured him that the police were ready to face the situation and confident of preventing those who attended the Temple Trees function from reaching Galle Face.

“Thereafter, I left Temple Trees for a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. There were several other members. When trouble erupted, President Rajapaksa immediately got in touch with Senior DIG Tennakoon, who revealed he had been asked not to use force by the IGP himself.”

Dr. Pathirana said the President had asked the senior law enforcement officer why he didn’t carry out instructions issued by him (the President).

The Galle District MP emphasised that the IGP and the Secretary to the Public Security Ministry were responsible for the violence at Kollupitiya and Fort police areas which triggered violence in many parts of the country. (SF)

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New Deputy Speaker not from Rajapaksa political dynasty



Newly-elected Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa said that he was not a member of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s clan.

The Hambantota District Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmaker said so when The Island asked him whether he, too, was a member of the Rajapaksa family now under fire over the continuing political-economic-social turmoil.

Rajapaksa polled 109 votes at a secret vote held in Parliament on Tuesday (17) to secure the Deputy Speaker’s post. MP Rajapaksa defeated Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Kaviratne, who polled 78 votes.

The SLPP rebel group members refrained from voting for Rajapaksa after the top SLPP leadership ignored their appeal to fill the vacancy through consultations with the SJB.

Rajapaksa succeeded SLFP’s Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, who quit the post twice, the second occasion after beating SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar at a secret vote.

Deputy Speaker Rajapaksha said that he had served as the Chairman of the Ambalanthota Pradeshiya Sabha in 1997. Subsequently, he became a member of the Southern Provincial Council.

Asked whether he was a resident of the Rajapaksas’ home base, Deputy Speaker said that he was from Pallerotta, Ambalantota. (SF)

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