R. K. Radhakrishnan
``Department under constant review; gaps are being closed''
Chief Secretary refutes claims that medical colleges are not doing enough Department looking for assistance from Madhavaram unit of TANUVAS
CHENNAI: Seven months after the communicable disease, chikungunya, affected people across the State, at least two key health posts responsible for controlling the epidemic are manned by `in charge' officials.
The post of Director of Public Health, the officer responsible for ensuring health of people across the State, is being manned by an `in-charge' officer, P. Padmanabhan. Chennai city, which health professionals say is endemic to a host of communicable diseases, has not had a regular health officer since 1997. The post of the Chennai Corporation Health Officer is now held by another `in-charge' official P. Kughanandam.
Addressing presspersons here on Monday, Chief Secretary L. K. Tripathy claimed that this did not affect the performance of the officers. The department was under constant review and the gaps were being closed.
The Health Department gave up the mechanism of monitoring forests more than a decade ago. A public health expert said that surveillance of forests species gave an indication of the possible outbreak of a disease and that it was necessary to monitor the forests now since many communicable diseases were making their presence felt again. Many diseases are transmitted from animals to men and, once an outbreak is conformed in a forest region, people in nearby areas should be encouraged to take precautions.
It took the Health Department more than four months to set up its first surveillance centre at entry points of the city Central and Egmore stations and the Koyambedu bus station. As on Monday, there was no surveillance in the Chennai airport. The Airports Authority said that it was willing to cooperate if the Health Department wanted to set up a surveillance centre there.
A Health Department official said it was only now that the department looked for assistance from the Madhavaram unit of the Tamil Nadu Animal and Veterinary Sciences University (TANUVAS). The Madhavaram facility had done commendable testing and confirmation work during the outbreak of leptospirosis more than a decade ago and also during the dengue outbreak.
Asked if the tests done at the Indian Institute of Virology, Pune, could also be done here (to confirm the presence of the chikungunya virus), Mr. Tripathy said this possibility was being explored. Asked if the State Government had requested the expertise of the local unit of the Centre for Disease Control, Atlanta, he said that this was also done.
Mr. Tripathy refuted the allegation that the medical colleges in the State were not doing enough. "There are separate out-patient facilities in all medical colleges," he said and added that the doctors had been trained. Asked if there was a separate ward for the chikungunya-affected and if mosquito nets were provided to the patients, he said this could be considered.
Quoting the CDC, Mr. Tripathy said that no one could die from chikungunya. So far, 62,698 people in Tamil Nadu were affected by the disease.