Say faulty reporting of deaths and cases leading to ineffective countering strategy in district

The failure of the Health Department and other agencies to accurately reflect the ground reality of malaria and fatalities in the district has, for the first time, raised questions over the integrity of data collecting system.

It has also left the government and private sector doctors sceptical about the official malaria-countering strategy.

Both private and government doctors said the official claim of no malaria death in the past three years was incorrect and misleading coping strategies.

Some doctors of District Government Wenlock Hospital said the correct numbers were not being told. B. Shantharam Baliga, Professor and head, Department of Paediatrics, Kasturba Medical College, who works in Wenlock Hospital, said officials were “hiding the number of deaths and not even investigating the deaths in Wenlock”. He said, “What is the integrity (of the numbers)? It’s absolute nonsense.”

Sadly, it is not the lack of government assistance or political will that is the problem. As Dr. Baliga said, health officials have been told, since 1995, to “show correct numbers, it is ok even if overestimated” to get funds. Yet, real numbers are not communicated.

He said telling true numbers entailed explaining, answering questions. Instead, officials could please seniors by saying malaria was under control, underestimate requirements and continue getting funds. “At what cost, is the question,” he said.

‘Must be rampant’

It is not only private practitioners who are questioning the official malaria numbers. Rajashri, Deputy Resident Medical Officer (RMO), Government Wenlock Hospital, speaking to The Hindu from Panchgani, where she is attending a training programme on ethics in governance for doctors from Health and Family Welfare Department, said, “I am not ashamed to admit there are cases of malaria. We all have to get together and fight it.” She said there were many incidences of malaria, including several treated in Wenlock Hospital. If one college alone could have 23 plus malaria cases, it must be rampant, in thousands, in the district.

“I am being attacked by officials from other districts here asking why I am unable to control malaria in a 100 per cent literate district,” she said.

Mangalore: When a city-based doctor treating malaria patients in particular said health officials were trying to “hush up” malaria deaths and downplaying the number of malaria cases in the district, H.S. Shivakumar, District Health Officer (DHO), told The Hindu it was the doctor’s “imagination”.

B.S. Kakkilaya, the doctor, provided documents to Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim at a recent meeting of the deaths in the district because of malaria, including three deaths that took place last year and two deaths this year. When he presented copies of the acknowledgment he had received from the District Vector Borne Diseases Control Officer (DVBDCO) for the deaths, it was met with silence.

The DHO later told The Hindu he had said so because he was new to his office and Dr. Kakkilaya had not discussed it with him.

Dr. Kakilaya, who is currently (a season when malaria is least expected) treating a 19-year-old from Bejai, battling for life, said there was a disconnect between ground reality and the claims of DVBDCO and Mangalore City Corporation officials, who have “cooked up records”. (The DVBDCO has claimed there has been zero death in the district due to malaria in 2011, 2012 and 213.) He said, “To claim absolutely no malaria transmission is premature.”

More In: Mangaluru