Dengue mauls city this year, toll high

Over 5,000 people in capital officially diagnosed with dengue till Dec 21

Almost everyone in the capital this year knew someone or the other suffering from dengue. The statistics might not indicate an epidemic, as claimed by many non-government sources, but the very statistics also came under the scanner.

By December 21 this year, 5,562 people were officially detected with dengue. This is only 678 less than the number of such patients in 2010, the worst year in Delhi over the last six years. Municipal corporation officials patted their backs by claiming that the mortality rate of dengue was less compared to some of the previous years.

But relatives of the dead, doctors at private hospitals, opposition parties and the media cried hoarse all through the latter part of the year, highlighting that there were discrepancies in statistics, that many more deaths were being covered by municipal corporations which has the Bharatiya Janata Party at the helm.

Six persons as compared to eight in 2010 and 2011 were reported dead this year. Twelve others were put in the ‘suspected deaths’ category. The deaths in the latter case were all reported from private hospitals, most of which did not have the test kits that were recognised by the government. These hospitals, however, claimed that their kits detected the disease in as little as two hours compared to two days taken by the government-approved kits.

But given the poor condition of government hospitals and the mad rush there, a good number of patients chose private hospitals. Take the example of Shahbad Dairy in north-west Delhi that was the worst affected. In a two-day period, residents claimed 13 people died there. They said almost every house in that locality had at least one dengue patient.

Since the biggest government hospital in the area, B R Ambedkar Hospital, had two to three patients occupying each bed reserved for dengue patients, most of the sick chose private hospitals, shelling out thousands of rupees.

However, the government responded to the outbreak there through denials, late fogging and slapping fines on residents for keeping water in the open, an ideal situation for breeding of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that is responsible for dengue. Death certificates from private hospitals, which showed dengue to be the reason for the deaths, were dismissed citing various reasons. Frustrated, the residents even came out on the streets, highlighting poor hygiene and government apathy.

This gave ample opportunity for the Congress-run state government and the then emerging Aam Aadmi Party to make promises of better facilities and to criticise the BJP-run municipal corporations. The Congress government even ordered public hospitals to allot different wards for dengue patients and private hospitals to reserve a good share of their beds for them.

However, that was not good enough to accommodate the overwhelming number of cases being reported officially and unofficially each day. In fact, many doctors picked up the disease themselves and even a death was reported from a private hospital. The patients were also faced with shortage of platelets, a component of blood that helps save dengue patients.

Municipal corporation officials claim that they went all out to control the outbreak. They say the increased cases this year was “natural” as increased mosquito breeding repeats itself every three-four years. “We saw a similar trend in 2006 and 2010. Going by the trend, next year we should see much lesser cases. Early rain and consistent high humidity also extended the duration of the disease this year. Water shortage too led to storage of water by residents, most of who kept them out in the open,” said New Delhi Municipal Council spokesperson Y S Mann.

Strikes by doctors

The outbreak coincided with strikes by doctors or other employees at public hospitals, and in one major case, a dengue death led to halting of services. At B R Ambedkar Hospital in Rohini. Patients suffered as all resident doctors went on a strike after some of them alleged they were beaten up by relatives of a dengue patient who died. The hospital had been handling the most number of dengue cases.

Even otherwise, strikes crippled health services throughout the year. Over a dozen strikes, some even week-long, as was the case at the biggest Delhi government-run hospital LNJP, were seen. In most cases, manhandling of doctors by relatives of patients was alleged to be the reason. But patients were the worst sufferers as they were sometimes even asked to vacate hospital wards. Most often, even the emergency wards were shut on them, forcing even those in a critical condition to seek costly and delayed treatment elsewhere.

These incidents also brought to light cases of insensitive and rude response by doctors. The repeated incidents also forced some hospitals to hire bouncers and restrict the number of people who could visit a patient.

Given the fact that it was the election year, many small health centres were opened for the public by both the Delhi government and municipal corporations. Some of the bigger hospitals were expanded or renovated. However, they all proved inadequate.

Comments (+)