Sunday Anchor

Rajasthan in emergency mode

The Rajasthan government was jolted out of slumber after the former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot (left) and State Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria (right) tested positive for swine flu. File photos  

With the H1N1 influenza toll in Rajasthan crossing the 85 mark on Friday, the highest in the country, the State government is on alert. The official machinery is busy trying to contain the epidemic, which, health officials say, has “gone out of hand.”

The government was jolted out of slumber after the former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and State Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria tested positive for swine flu.

While the government is leaving no stone unturned to deal with, probably, the worst public health crisis in the State, all measures seem to be proving inadequate as the number of casualties and patients is increasing each passing day.

Worse, there is panic and thousands of people are pouring into hospitals to get themselves tested for the infection. Government doctors have been denied leave and senior health officials asked not to go out of their districts.

“We have done our best since the cases started trickling in since January, but, yes, high mortality and infection are a matter of concern for us,” State Health Minister Rajendra Rathore told The Hindu. He said there was no dearth of medicines, and patients were being given treatment and masks free of cost. “We have even asked private hospitals to give free treatment to patients as we will supply them medicines free of cost,” he said.

The scene at Sawai Man Singh Hospital, the biggest government hospital in Jaipur, is not a happy one. The three outpatient departments opened exclusively for suspected swine flu cases are overflowing with patients.

The State government has roped in private pathological laboratories for testing, the results of which are now available online within 12 hours.

An analysis of deaths has shown that the main cause of mortality was late treatment. Of the patients who came to Sawai Man Singh Hospital, a majority of those who succumbed to infection died within a day or two of being admitted, suggesting that they had been brought to the hospital in a critical state with their chances of survival being slim.

“We have issued instructions to put patients on Tamiflu even before they test positive for the viral infection because the medicine does not have very harsh side-effects. This way we can save many lives,” Mr. Rathore said. Fifty houses around one where a death has occurred or a positive case has been detected are screened.

The Education Department has directed schools to do away with the morning assembly to protect children from infection.

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje set up task forces right up to the district level to monitor the situation daily.

Chaired by a public health expert, Ashok Panagariya, the task force at the State level has been meeting every day reviewing the preparedness and issuing instructions to the health workers and doctors on dealing with the situation.

Even as all this is being done, there is no dearth of complaints from patients. Those going to private hospitals are often referred to government ones after initial treatment, and complaints of lack of manpower, medicine and testing facilities pour in from the districts, most of which have been affected by this seasonal influenza. Health officials say the mortality figures are high in Jaipur because most critical cases from the districts and some from neighbouring States are referred here.

A major awareness campaign, too, has been launched by the State and the government says it has had a good impact as people are coming for testing earlier, which helps in early detection and treatment.

But the campaign was started only after the mortality figures went up in the second week of January. Had this been done earlier, maybe, precious lives would have been saved and the crisis avoided.


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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 1:44:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sunday-anchor/rajasthan-in-emergency-mode/article6869762.ece

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