Health dept 'blocks' info to avert public panic

Decision taken to prevent cured H1N1 patients from being ostracised

 
The information blockage, which started on Tuesday, was apparently done after the health department received complaints from private hospitals and patients. But strangely, the private hospitals in the City don’t seem to be reluctant to divulge the information.

Dr George D’Souza, Medical Superintendent of St John’s Hospital, said that except giving out the patients’ name and personal details, he did not have any objection in sharing details of treatment and cause of death of the deceased. Even Dr Yateesh from Apollo Hospital, said that the hospital had no issue in revealing the medical details of the deceased H1N1 positive patient. “However, the media should report correctly. The other day, one of the news channels reported an H1N1 death in our hospital, which was not true,” he said.

However, the Medical Director of Manipal Hospital, Dr Nagendra Swamy, refused to comment on the issue. The hospital is already serving notice issued by the BBMP health department, which had forbidden it to reveal any details on communicable diseases directly to the media. The notice was given soon after Deccan Herald carried the story on Dengue Shock Syndrome on July 5.

There were speculations that Wockhardt Hospital was not admitting any critical confirmed H1N1 patient suffering from bi-lateral pneumonia. However, CEO of Hospital Dr Lloyd Nazareth rubbished the rumours. “All the panic is created by media, obviously other patients in the hospital will show some signs of reluctance in availing treatment from us,” he said. Dr Nazareth further added that they do not any problem in providing details of H1N1 death unless the questions asked by media limits only to the health conditions of deceased.

After cases of infection and deaths, there seem to be a certain level of stigma attached in the society towards H1N1 patients. Medical Director of M S Ramaiah Dr Naresh Shetty said: “The details of H1N1 deaths are not revealed so as to avoid any sort of stigma attached with the infection in the society.”  Managing Director of Lakeside Medical Centre and Hospital Dr Paramesh said that many patients avoid coming to hospitals which has reported an H1N1 death.  "If the identity of the deceased can be protected, there is no harm sharing details of medical conditions", he said.

When contacted, Health Department Principal Secretary I R Perumal said the State government was only following the guidelines issued by the Central health ministry not to reveal the names of H1N1 victims through the media. He said the names were being blocked following complaints that families of H1N1 victims and even cured patients were treated as “outcasts” when they went back home.

Health Department Principal Secretary I R Perumal narrated an incident wherein a patient from Mandya whose name was published in the local newspapers after it was confirmed that he had tested positive for H1N1 was shunned by his neighbours even after he was discharged from hospital fully cured.

He said managements of several private hospitals had requested the health department not to reveal the names of their hospitals in the daily bulletins released by the department. “They felt relating the name of the hospital to the death of a H1N1 patient created a scare among other inpatients,” Perumal said.

Two more deaths, 18 fresh cases

Two more persons have succumbed to the H1N1 influenza, taking the death toll to 38 in the State.  A 16-year-old boy, confirmed for flu expired at a corporate hospital in the City on Wednesday, but the details of his death were revealed on Friday. This clearly shows that the Health Department too is facing problems tracing deaths.

Meanwhile, 18 fresh cases tested positive for H1N1 influenza on Friday, raising the total number of positive patients to 554 in the State.

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