Wednesday, August 5, 2009

H1N1 flu death in Pune. 'Angel' Ministers and 'Villain' Doctors

The tragedy of death of 14 year old girl in Pune,India's first death due to H1N1 flu['swine' flu] has created a media frenzy among our news hungry 24/7 tv channels.
The girl reported symptoms of sore throat, runny nose, headaches on July 21 and consulted a general practitioner. Since the symptoms improved, she attended school. But the fever returned and she was admitted to the Jehangir Hospital on July 27. Incidentally, the girl was admitted for treatment of suspected pneumonia.
Her lung aspirate was sent to the National Institute of Virology on July 31 and she tested positive for swine flu. She had been put on Oseltamivir on July 30.
“She had vague and non-specific symptoms,” Dr Prasad Muglikar, Medical Superintendent, Jehangir Hospital told The Indian Express. “After admission, her condition deteriorated rapidly and she had to be put on a ventilator. As part of investigations, we sent samples to the NIV. They confirmed she was infected with the H1N1 virus,” he said, pointing out “she had already visited two private practitioners and was in a breathless state when she was admitted on July 27.”

Who is to blame?
That is the first question all news anchors and reporters are asking.
The answer I thought is obvious. H1N1 virus must be the culprit. But the answers I heard was entirely different. See these reports.

Terming the death of a swine-flu infected girl in Pune as "unfortunate", Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has said negligence on part of the private hospital which treated the 14-year-old was to blame for it.
"This incident is really unfortunate. I feel there was total negligence on part of those who admitted her to the hospital and negligence on part of the hospital,"

The life of the swine-flu affected teenaged girl in Pune could have been saved had she tested positive for the virus and taken Tamiflu, a drug against the disease, on time, the Health Minister said on Monday night.Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the girl had first gone to a private hospital who treated her for "normal flu".
When she did not recover, she got herself admitted to another private hospital where again she was treated not for H1N1 but for pneumonia, he said.
"So, after having treated her for two days, the private hospital realized that there is some more than pneumonia. But by that time, both her lungs were involved," the minister said.
By the time, she was detected with the disease and given the medicine, "it was too late".
"I feel that had she got the test done right in the beginning, it would have come out positive and then should would have been administered Tamiflu and her life could have been saved," Azad told NDTV.

These are not expert doctors talking. The Chief Minister and the Union Health Minister's statements had not come after an enquiry by an expert panel. They must have asked their local Party men and must have got information from them that it is better to blame the doctors and the hospital. That is the sorry state of affairs in India.
As of 31st July the World Health Organisation has reported 1154 confirmed deaths due to H1N1 flu out of 162380 confirmed cases. Highest number of deaths, 302 is from the United States of America and Mexico with 141 deaths comes second.
Were all these deaths due to negligence of doctors?

Brazil had its first death due to H1N1 flu in late June.See how the health minister reacted there.

Brazil had its first death from the H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, on Sunday, after a 29-year-old man succumbed to the virus which he picked up in Argentina, Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao said.
He first showed symptoms on June 15 while on a trip to Argentina, which has had several deaths due to the flu. After returning to Brazil on June 19, he was admitted to a hospital the following day where he was confirmed to have the H1N1 virus.
The ministry has in recent days warned Brazilians against traveling to Argentina and Chile. It also said the total confirmed cases of the deadly flu had reached 627 in Brazil.
Officials expect further deaths as the virus spreads during the coming winter months, which began a week ago in Brazil.

All the Health authorities in the World have reacted like this except India. No Indian media reporter was smart enough to ask the Indian Health Minister on basis of what expert report he is commenting that the doctors are to blame.
In India most of the studies have shown that about 70 percent of people approach privately owned health care facilities for all their needs. Why is it so?
Among the countries of the World, Indian Government spend the least for Health. It is always around 1 percent of the GDP while most other countries spend between 5 to 10 percent of the GDP.
That is why our ill-equipped Government run health care facilities are equally shunned by patients, doctors and politicians.
Instead of blaming with out any scientific or rational basis the doctors who treated the girl, will our politicians and Health policy makers try to revamp the tottering Health Care system?

1 comment:

Vally said...

Well written. It is sad that the family had to lose a child. But it is very irresponsible on the part of these ministers. They panic when such things happen and give irrational comments to deflect the tension in the society. what they end up doing in the end is what we are witnessing now. A messy situation where people are running to the nearest clinic gathering together creating a situation where epidemics will spread more easily. This situation will get out of hand if the Govt. doesn't start behaving responsibly.