Last week, 65-year-old Samy (name changed) of Thiruninravur sat through a 35-km trip by car, peering anxiously at his wounds that had been inflicted by a stray dog. Bitten at ten places, he had received first aid at the Government Taluk Hospital at Avadi but was referred to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital for further treatment. The taluk hospital maintains stocks of the anti-rabies vaccine but residents alleged that patients were often asked to wait until four more people came in to receive the shot, which is stocked in multi-dose vials.

“A friend, who was bitten by a dog, was asked to wait for more patients to arrive as each vial of the vaccine has five doses. Many patients are nervous and seek treatment in private hospitals although they have to spend a lot,” said Rafeeq, a resident of Avadi.

Sami said that while he could have gone to a private hospital, treatment there would cost at least Rs. 7,000, a sum he could not afford.

“I was given tetanus toxoid injection at the taluk hospital and another vaccine. They referred me to the GH as the bites were severe. I had to rush there and was very worried throughout the journey. The taluk hospital should be equipped with facilities to treat even severe cases of dog bites as the stray dog population in the western suburbs is very high,” said Sami

T. Sadagopan, consumer activist and resident of Thandurai in Pattabiram, said, “At times, if a patient bitten by a dog reached the taluk hospital at noon, she is asked to come back the next day as the outpatient ward closes around 12.30 p.m. and they do not want to open a fresh vial for just one patient. The hospital should be given single dose vials of the anti-rabies vaccine.”

Hospital staff said this situation has prevailed for a year now. “We usually open the vial even if there are three patients,” said a staff.

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