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India Grapples with Dengue Fever Outbreak

  • Anjana Pasricha

Indian patient, Aishwarya Gupta (4) lies on a bed in the dengue ward of a government hospital in New Delhi," Sept. 15, 2015.

Indian patient, Aishwarya Gupta (4) lies on a bed in the dengue ward of a government hospital in New Delhi," Sept. 15, 2015.

As the Indian capital battles its worst outbreak of dengue fever in five years, health authorities have announced a series of measures to ensure treatment for patients. This follows reports that two schoolboys died after being turned away by hospitals.

Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal threatened to cancel the licenses of private hospitals if they denied admission to patients suffering from dengue fever.

He said they would bring about a special law in the Delhi Assembly to deal with hospitals that turn away people.

The outbreak of the mosquito-borne fever in the Indian capital hit the spotlight after the families of two schoolboys said their children died after a number of private hospitals refused to admit them.

The parents of one of them jumped off a four-story building on September 10 citing the death of their seven-year-old son, Avinash Rout, as the reason in a suicide note. Media reports said he was turned away by five private hospitals and by the time he was admitted to one, his condition had deteriorated.

Eleven people have died in the city due to dengue in recent weeks. More than 1800 cases of the tropical disease have been reported, which usually strikes during the monsoon season and peaks around October. That is the highest number since 2010.

Hospitals overwhelmed

Public and private hospitals have been overwhelmed by the influx of patients — there are reports of patients sharing beds.

As the dengue scare gripped the capital, Delhi’s Health minister, Satyendra Jain, asked people not to panic and assured them that they would not be denied treatment. He said the government has ordered 1000 more beds to treat dengue patients.

He said hospitals have been instructed not to turn away people in serious condition and even if they did not have beds, they should stabilize the patient.

Authorities have ordered surprise inspections, doctors' leave requests have been cancelled and hospitals have been asked to hire more nurses to cope with the influx of patients.

The government also announced that laboratories should not charge more than $9 for dengue tests — the charges in private labs are up to four times higher.

Health experts say the dengue outbreak has exposed the inadequacy of public health measures in India. The number of hospital beds, for example, has not kept pace with the country’s rising population.

Delhi has 2.7 beds per 1000 people, much higher than the national average but only about half of the five per 1000 population recommended by the World Health Organization.

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