Private hospitals accuse government of underplaying the epidemic

The dengue outbreak has now triggered a war of sorts between the State Health Department and private hospitals.

Private doctors are angered by what they say is government’s downplaying of the disease and point out that their hospitals are flooded with dengue patients. “There is a significant increase in the number of dengue patients at our hospital. Going by government figures reported in the media and the increasing number of cases reported in hospitals, there seems to be a disconnect,” said Sudarshan Ballal, medical director of Manipal Hospitals.

Protracted, costly

While the government insists on Mac-Elisa (Avidin biotin Complex IgM antibody capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) as a confirmatory test for dengue, private hospitals are asking why rapid tests such as the NS1 antigen test cannot be done instead. Mac-Elisa, they say, is not only time-consuming but also expensive.

“This is only an attempt by the government to hide the real number of dengue cases: the actual scenario is serious,” H. Paramesh, president of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (Phana), told The Hindu on Thursday.

Pointing out that he had tried to convince the State Health Department (during meetings) about considering rapid tests also as confirmatory, Dr. Paramesh said: “Although we start treatment symptomatically without waiting for the test reports, patients are tense and anxious to know the results quickly. They are put to hardship as getting the tests done from the sentinel laboratories is not an easy task. The rapid tests are approved by the Drugs Controller General of India before they are released into the market. Moreover, their results are equally specific and sensitive. At the most, there are chances of missing one or two positive cases.”

Reacting to this, State Health Director Dhanya Kumar and Chief Health Officer of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Devaki Umesh said Mac-Elisa was the prescribed yardstick for dengue confirmation as per the Government of India’s guidelines on dengue treatment. “On several occasions, samples that have tested positive through the rapid tests have shown negative results through Mac-Elisa. However, we have also recorded the rapid tests’ reports in our data compilation,” Dr. Dhanya Kumar said.

Another bone of contention is dengue deaths. “The health officials say that most of the deaths are reported from private hospitals. I disagree. This is because most patients come to us at the end stage after initially going to government hospitals,” Dr. Paramesh said.

Positive cases

According to government figures, of the 3,140 positive cases recorded in the State from January till date, 868 are from Bangalore city limits and 175 from Bangalore Urban district limits. “Eight of the 21 deaths reported in the State are from Bangalore. The incidence is gradually showing a downward trend this month,” Dr. Dhanya Kumar said.

Dr. Devaki Umesh said the BBMP had started a door-to-door survey of houses to detect breeding spots and create awareness. “Of the 2,74,421 houses surveyed so far, breeding spots were found in 8,691 houses,” she added.