The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government is facing all round flak for its inept handling of the healthcare system, in the wake of an unusual spike in the number of dengue cases in the state.
With nearly 6,200 dengue cases reported in the state since this January, the highest in the last four years, the municipal authorities too have come under criticism for being lax on vector control measures.
Meanwhile, the Telangana government has denied reports of four dengue-related deaths in the state in the last two months. Speaking to The Federal, State Health Minister E Rajender said that the reasons behind the deaths will be analysed and crosschecked by an expert committee before the government confirms the reports.
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“The reasons for all the deaths, which are recorded in the hospitals, will be analysed to check whether they were caused by viral fever, dengue or influenza. Thereafter, it will again be cross-checked by an expert committee and only then an announcement can be made. We can confirm it only after the entire process gets over by next year,” he said.
The Telangana high court has taken a serious view of the situation and set a one-month deadline for the government to “control the epidemic or face serious consequences.” The incidence of viral fever is particularly rampant in Hyderabad.
Govt’s denial mode
As hospitals across the state, including both government and private, reported large numbers of viral fever cases with dengue symptoms since August, the government’s initial reaction was that of a flat denial.
Then came the usual assurances that the incidence was just seasonal and that a special drive has been launched, including fogging, to control the menace of mosquitoes. And as the number of cases kept mounting and the media started focusing on the unusual rush of patients at hospitals and diagnostic centres, the Health Minister started blaming the media for “spreading panic” and assured that the situation was under control.
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Thereafter, the medical and health departments directed the private hospitals not to declare dengue deaths unless the samples of the patients were tested at a government facility and verified by a panel of doctors set up by the government. The private hospitals must also send the data to the government, but officials claim that at least 40% of them had failed to do so.
The government has also insisted that the testing and diagnostics for dengue should be done with the ‘Mac-Elisa’ test method and not the NS1 rapid test, which is considered to be less accurate.
G Amar Singh, additional director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) said that all district medical and health officers have been directed to check whether the cases reported by private hospitals had used Mac-Elisa test to confirm dengue.
The sudden rise in cases
According to the data on National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) website, 1,831 dengue cases were reported in Telangana in 2015, 4,037 in 2016, 5,369 in 2017, and 4,592 in 2018.
Of the 6,183 cases reported this year so far, the highest (1,491) were from Hyderabad, followed by Khammam (1,227), Medchal (618) and Rangareddy (502). While 2,188 dengue cases were reported between January 1 and August 29, as many as 3,995 cases were reported in a span of 22 days, from August 30 to September 20. According to reports, at least 540 dengue cases have been detected in the state since September 1.
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The spike in the number of dengue cases has brought the TRS government under heavy criticism with both Congress and BJP slamming it for failing to control the situation.
While AICC spokesperson Sravan Dasoju has stressed on the need for declaring a medical emergency in the state, another Congress leader, Shabbir Ali, highlighted the lack of basic facilities in government hospitals.
Alleging that the government has scant regard for public health, Ali said that it was evident in the slash in the allocations towards the medical and health department in the recent budget. “The government hospitals lack the basic facilities required to tackle the dengue outbreak and viral fevers. Corporate hospitals are exploiting the situation,” said the former minister.
However, the officials have refuted such allegations and said that they are doing their best to contain the disease. “Such situations can be avoided if municipalities and village-level civic bodies do their part in spreading public awareness about keeping their surroundings clean,” said Dr G Srinivasa Rao, director, State Public Health Department.
HC issues deadline
Acting on a batch of Public Interest Litigations (PILs), the Telangana High Court has directed the government to take all necessary measures to tackle the crisis. It has also issued a one-month deadline to the government to contain the epidemic.
“If the government fails to tackle the epidemic within a month, this court shall have no other option but to summon the principal secretary to elicit the details and other serious actions would be initiated,” a bench of Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy has said.
The bench found fault with the municipal authorities for not using drone technology to spray insecticides to control breeding of mosquitoes in slum areas.
It also wondered why the government has not subsidised the cost of the Mac-Elisa test to make it more affordable for the common man. Further, the court has directed the government to increase the number of laboratories where such tests can be conducted.