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Market to Handle Shanghai Wastes
The city is poised to explore a market-oriented way to better tackle the growing quantities of medical waste generated by local hospitals, according to top city officials.

Billed by the officials as a novel attempt in terms of the appropriate treatment of medical scrap, the new method is expected to better protect local residents from the threat of possibly infectious waste.

The amount of such waste in Shanghai, official statistics show, has reached roughly 20,000 tons annually over the past several years.

According to the local authorities' plan, a multi-invested company will soon be established in Shanghai through public bidding.

The company will specialize in the collection and treatment of medical waste from local hospitals, which is mainly made up of used disposable medical apparatus and instruments, human organs after operations and garbage generated by patients.

The new company, which will be independent of the hospitals, is expected to stick to its market-driven principle and hopefully become a self-supported and even profitable business.

Earnings will come from fees charged hospitals for the third-party waste treatment. Portions of the fees may be passed on to patients.

The basic principle behind the new practice is: whoever generates the waste that may harm the environment should pay the bill, and whoever is engaged in the waste treatment can benefit, mainly in economic terms, from what they do, according to Vice-Mayor Jiang Yiren.

"Hopefully, the new practice will bring about a fundamental solution to the long-existing problem of medical waste treatment," noted Jiang, adding that several domestic companies and one from Hong Kong have shown strong interests in getting involved in such a project.

Currently, local hospitals have to find their own way to deal with the waste, which is mostly either buried or incinerated.

However, such a sideline task often makes the hospitals feel burdened, and the lack of appropriate equipment and technologies might be a hidden threat to the local environment.

The situation is even worse in some suburban clinics as well as some of those affiliated with local factories and schools.

An inspection showed that about 42 percent of the checked clinics failed to destroy their used disposable medical apparatus as required by regulations, and 49 percent failed to sterilize the apparatus after usage.

Such a situation, coupled with management loopholes, creates the possibility that the used apparatus will flow into the illegal reclamation market, posing a serious threat to people's health, insiders said.

"It's quite necessary to set up such a specialized establishment to carry out standardized treatment and management of medical waste," said an official with the local Shuguang Hospital, who declined to be named, "so hospitals can thereby focus more on providing better medical service for patients."

To provide technical guidelines for the new company, the city's environmental protection bureau is expected to work out specific treatment standards, and a special city-level regulation will be drafted in the near future to enable supervisory bodies to better oversee the market, officials said.

Apart from Shanghai, East China's Zhejiang and South China's Guangdong provinces are also pushing ahead with their exploration of a market-driven approach to medical waste treatment.

(China Daily September 9, 2002)

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