Private hospitals in the city will assist the State government in screening and treating swine flu patients. This decision was taken after a meeting held with the Chief Secretary on Tuesday.

Director of Health Services D.S. Dakhure told The Hindu that most of the 19 hospitals which attended a meeting on Monday agreed to help with treatment by setting up separate isolation wards. Some who could not do so offered to screen and collect throat swabs, he said.

On Wednesday, a team of medical experts will inspect all the hospitals to check for the required facilities under the Centre’s guidelines. In Pune, nine hospitals which expressed interest in treating patients were inspected by a medical team, he said. The private hospitals are expected to start treatment within four-seven days.

Sample-testing centres

Meanwhile, at a press conference, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Commissioner Jairaj Phatak announced that the civic body would start sample-testing centres at the Kasturba and Siddharth hospitals. “At present, it takes 72 hours for test results to come from the Haffkine Institute as there is a heavy load. The laboratory at Kasturba can be operationalised in less than four weeks. It would then be able to test 100 samples in one shift and 200 in two shifts. We would also be operationalising a lab at Siddharth.”

Dr. Jairaj Thanekar, Executive Health Officer of the BMC, said the time taken for the test result would not affect treatment. “We have started administering Tamiflu to patients as soon as we suspect that they may have swine flu,” he said. “We don’t wait for the test results to come.” Mr. Phatak also refused to shut down schools in the city like in Pune.

“Even if schools are shut,” he said, “children may contract the virus from parents or while travelling in crowded buses or trains on their way to malls,” Mr. Phatak said.

Schools’ stand

He said that the principals of private schools told him during a meeting that there was no need to shut down schools. On the other hand, the corporators wanted the schools closed.

In order to end the impasse, Mr. Phatak decided to resort to an SMS opinion poll. SMSs would be sent to Mumbaikars in the name of the Municipal Commissioner to know what people wanted.

Long weekend

Mr. Phatak said although the Government of India too did not see any reason for “schools to be closed down indiscriminately,” he would take a decision to that effect if the people so desired.

The children of the city would have a long weekend anyway, with the Dahi Handi festival on Friday and Independence Day on Saturday. As such, he said, there was no need to separately shut schools.

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