Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Press release from Jan Arogya Abhiyan on Swine Flu

Lack of clear-cut swine flu guidelines, to citizens and private doctors, by Municipal Corporation and health officials resulted in unnecessarily long queues in Naidu Hospital. Moreover a lot of confusion continues amongst lay people and doctors about specific steps to be taken.

There are two criteria for throat swab collection and its testing at National Institute of Virology (NIV) and those are: only those patients with cough, cold, fever who had been a) to foreign countries in last eight days or b) in contact with swine flu patients. However this was not made sufficiently clear through newspaper, radio and TV by Municipal Authorities leading to overcrowding at Naidu Hospital.

Even persons not fitting in above two criteria are also getting swine flu infection. Hence there is need to change these criteria and new ones should be properly publicized through media. Even today, there is no clear guideline for private practitioners and doctors. On the contrary on 6th August, government issued a threat of registration cancellation to doctors, through newspaper if they did not take proper care of patients, without making it clear what does it mean to take proper care!

Municipal Corporation printed more than one lakh information pamphlets. But it contains some incomplete and faulty instructions. E.g. ‘wash hands continuously’, ‘avoid congested places’. What does it mean to citizens? Some instructions have been taken from ‘Centre for Disease Control’,USA website. However CDC website says keep 6 feet distance from swine flu patient, PMC pamphlet says only 3 feet! Despite conveying these corrections to concerned health officials, there is no response from them.

No clear publicized information is provided to public and doctors on why only Naidu Hospital is collecting samples and only NIV is testing them, why only Naidu Hospital is providing required medicines.

Directorate of Maharashtra Health services has issued impracticable and vague instructions to doctors in today’s Indian Express.

Jan Arogya Abhiyan demands an immediate end to this indifference by Municipal and Health authorities. There is need to issue proper, scientific instructions for public and doctors through all newspapers and display them frequently on all television, radio channels.

Who one should visit doctors and when? When to directly approach Naidu Hospital and other 15 screening centres? What kind of congested places should be avoided? Who is at greater risk of infection? Who should use mask? What is exact meaning of ‘contact with swine flu patient’? Does it mean spending whole day with such patient or just brief time? Is it necessary to sterilize entire class or office if there is any swine flu patient? People should get proper scientific and specific answers to all such questions.

Private medical practitioners and civil society experts should be consulted while preparing guidelines for public and doctors.

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