Gujarat HC pulls up state govt on swine flu: why not declare it an epidemic

Ahmedabad, Wed Mar 27 2013, ,IE

The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday came down heavily on the state government over the prevalence of swine flu in the state and asked why it did not declare the disease “an epidemic”.The court also termed the state government’s report on steps being taken to handle the disease as “an eyewash”.After lashing out at the state government, the court directed the Commissioner of Health to file a detailed affidavit on a variety of issues related to the disease and medical emergency situation in the state by April 9, when further hearing is scheduled.

The court presided over by Justice Anant Dave had, in the last hearing, asked the state government to submit a detailed report related to the disease while acting on certain bail petitions by some undertrial prisoners who had sought bail to attend to their relatives suffering from diseases like swine flu, malaria and dengue.On Tuesday, the state government counsel presented the report before the court and apprised it about the instructions being given to the government hospitals and health centres.

The court, however, was unimpressed. “Instructions do not work. There are no qualified doctors in your CHCs (Community Health Centres). Even for X-ray, patients have to go outside,” the court said.The court said there were norms of cleanliness and hygiene in government hospitals but expressed doubts about how many hospitals were following the same.

Apprising the court about various provisions at government hospitals, the state government’s counsel said they were having rain-basera facilities in major centres for accommodation of relatives of the patients.To this, the court said, “Even for patients there are no beds in hospitals, what rain basera for their relatives? This is an eye-wash. They (relatives of the patients) are sleeping outside the Civil Hospital. And health and hygiene are worst in government hospitals.”

Referring to private hospitals, the court asked the state government if there was any specific requirement for opening multi-specialty and super-specialty hospitals or it was “part of industrial policy (of the state government)”.The court asked the state government counsel why it did not declare swine flu as an epidemic. When the government counsel said it would require a notification to be issues, the court wanted to know about the criteria set to declare a particular disease an epidemic.

On the role of private hospitals in medical emergency situation, the court asked the state government to provide details of provisions under which services of private hospitals could be summoned.It also sought details on what special treatment was being given to pregnant females as they faced increased threat from H1N1 infection.

The HC also referred to an earlier court order under which a committee of lawyers had visited the Civil Hospital after some junior doctors had died of dengue at the hostel and a public interest litigation was filed seeking cleanliness and hygienic conditions at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital.Govt gives figures on swine flu

In its report submitted before the High Court, the state government has given figures of swine flu cases in Gujarat since 2009 while comparing the same with states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. According to these figures, in 2013, Gujarat has so far recorded 689 swine flu cases. The report also gives history of the H1N1 virus in detail. It also contains details of the awareness campaign the state government has launched and various steps taken by the Health Department to mitigate the situation. The report also records that additional ventilators are required to attend critically-ill patients having H1N1 infection.


Gujarat tops in India with 149 swine flu deaths in 2013



Smitha R l Ahmedabad, March 26,2013, DNA
There is a reason why swine flu statistics are being treated as state secret. Gujarat has recorded the highest number of swine flu deaths in the country in 2013 and has the second highest number of cases as well. The state had 808 swine flu cases and 149 deaths due to the disease up to March 23, 2013. This means 18% of the cases resulted in death whereas Delhi, which recorded the highest number of swine flu cases at 1454, had a death rate of mere 1.1%. The national capital recorded just 16 deaths in 2013.
This dubious distinction could explain why the Gujarat government is clamping down on information and statistics about swine flu cases. It should be noted that the last update on swine flu from the health department was on March 19, at which point the number of deaths due to the disease was 125 while the total cases reported where 701. In the four days since then, the state has recorded a whopping 107 cases and 24 deaths.
Earlier, health minister Nitin Patel when contacted by DNA had gone on record to state that that the government was not releasing the data because it was to have a debate on the issue in the assembly on Monday as demanded by a member of the Opposition.
However, Congress MLA Chandrika Baria who was to move the private member’s bill in the assembly on the matter, was not present on Monday and hence it was not discussed. 
“As the member was not present, we did not discuss the matter. We will talk tomorrow on the matter,” was all that Patel was willing to say about the data. It should be noted that Patel had earlier said that the government would release the swine flu data from Monday onwards.
Interestingly, principal secretary, health services, PK Taneja; additional director of health Dr Paresh Dave; and nodal officer for swine flu Dr Dinkar Raval did not take calls from DNA. A message to them on the matter also did not elicit any reply.
Earlier, the state government’s handling of swine flu had come in for sharp criticism by the Gujarat high court. In its report filed before the court on March 21, the health department had merely stated that only 6.2% of the total cases of swine flu in the country were reported from Gujarat, and that it was less than other states. Unimpressed by the data, an annoyed high court had then directed the state to file a detailed report on swine flu.
In contrast, Delhi had 1,454 cases but only 16 deaths during the same period



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