Delhi in The Grip of Panic

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Photo: Pushkar Vyas
Photo: Pushkar Vyas

My child is 11 years old. I was waking him up to school when I found he had high temperature. I rushed him to the Holy Family Hospital without wasting a single minute” says Shikha Devi, 40. She lives in Nai Basti in Jamia Nagar, Okhla.

At first, the hospital refused to admit the child, citing shortage of beds. Later, under pressure, he was admitted and subsequently diagnosed as suffering from dengue. Treatment at the right time has given hope to the family.

Another patient at the same hospital, Neeraj Kumar, tells TEHELKA , “I had first gone to Apollo Hospital but they refused to admit me, saying no beds are available.” Many of Delhi’s private hospitals have been turning away patients, giving the same reason. This includes prominent hospital chains.

TEHELKA  visited Apollo Hospital as well as called its helpline to inquire about availability of beds for dengue patients. The admission department claimed that there were no beds available.

At government hospitals, this excuse cannot be trotted out. Dr YK Sarin, Medical Superintendent, Lok Nayak Jay Prakash Hospital, says, “50-55 patients come to our hospital every day. We treat them and wait till the MH1 reports come. We have 73-75 beds in the fever ward. In case of emergency, we transfer patients to medical and special wards.” Over 600 cases of dengue have been reported in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) in just one week (8-15 September). Of them, nine have died.

On 14 September, Delhi government’s Health Minister, Satyendar Jain directed three commissioners of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to ensure door-to-door preventive measures and awareness campaigns against dengue on a war footing. In a meeting with the three MCD commissioners and senior officials, Jain said, “There is an urgent need to dispel the panic about the spread of dengue, which is leading to a huge burden on hospitals.”

He also directed MCD workers to reach every home to sprinkle medicine in all possible sources of standing clean water and carry out fumigation drives in residential areas and markets.

Jain says, “The government is receiving complaints about lack of fumigation and this lapse will not be tolerated any more.” He expressed his displeasure with the slow pace of fumigation and the asked the MCD commissioners to take strict action against those responsible for this lapse.

The minister has directed the health department and MCD commissioners to prepare a daily report about the number of dengue cases in all hospitals across the national capital – Delhi government, MCD, central government and private hospitals. This report has to be sent to the health minister on a daily basis now.

The minister also directed the MCD commissioners to send out bulk SMSs to people that dengue is curable and there is no cause for panic.

The local authorities are on a drive to eradicate mosquitoes in residential areas. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) says that in North Delhi, 57,780 houses were found positive for breeding dengue. In South Delhi, there are 83,937 such houses and in East Delhi 33,334.

Senior MCD officials expressed hope that the weather would improve, thereby giving relief to Delhi’s citizens. “When temperatures dip, the virus dengue cannot survive beyond a point and cases slide,” says an official. “The peaks usually occur after the rains and not during the monsoon because the virus needs time to complete its life cycle. The Aedes aegypti vector mosquito which breeds during the rains continues to reproduce till the winter months.”

Till such time, the shortage of beds will persists even in government hospitals. Dr SK Sharma, head of the department of medicine at Lady Hardinge hospital, says, “In our hospital, we have 35 beds for dengue patients in fever ward. These days, 35-40 patients are coming in every day. We are not refusing them but admitting them to other wards.”

In other government hospitals, the administration is resorting to ad hoc measures like converting the waiting area into temporary wards.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal held a meeting of all MLAs and asked them to visit hospitals in their areas twice a day. “Talk to the patients,” he told them. “See that there is no panic.” He asked them to ensure no one is turned away and ample testing kits are available. Bureaucrats are to tackle any kind of shortage.

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