Censoring an epidemic

Print edition : October 16, 2015

Dinesh Kumar (centre) and others in his house.

ALMOST every house in Budhera, in Farrukhnagar tehsil of Gurgaon district in Haryana, has a dengue patient, say local residents who were huddled in daily-wager Dinesh Kumar’s house. Most of the patients are children. Dinesh Kumar’s 14-year-old son, Aakash, succumbed to the disease on September 15 at Shree Guru Gobind Singh Tricentenary (SGT) University, a private university which also runs a hospital. There are no government hospitals near Budhera. Residents of the village suspect that there have been at least eight deaths from dengue in the district. But the authorities insist that no one has died of dengue.

Aakash was not even very ill and was recovering, said Mukesh, his mother, an anganwadi worker. She cannot believe she has lost her child. Two of her other children, aged five (son) and 16 (daughter), were also admitted to SGT with dengue-like symptoms. The family got them discharged after Aakash’s death and admitted them in Rao Tula Ram Hospital in Delhi. They are back home and recovering now. Although the doctor at SGT told Frontline that there was no provision to confirm dengue cases and that many patients suffered from viral fever, the prescriptions for the children clearly mention dengue. Aakash’s family and others in the village insist that his death occurred because of negligence, that no doctor visited Aakash after a morning visit, and that the auxiliary nurse midwife on duty ignored repeated pleas of the family to check Aakash even as his condition deteriorated steadily. When his father took him to the emergency section after a full night had passed, the doctor on night duty hurriedly tried to do something, but soon Aakash stopped moving. “It was then that the doctor told us to take him elsewhere. It was 4:30 in the morning. We rushed to Paras Hospital in Gurgaon, even though SGT refused to give us the referral or discharge papers, but it was too late,” recalled his father.

A case of negligence has been registered against the hospital. “An inquiry is going on and the post-mortem report has been sent to PGI [Pandit Bhagwat Dayal Sharma Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences], Rohtak. The Chief Medical Officer [CMO] will inquire, and if it is a case of negligence, action will be taken. But it has been established that the treatment for dengue was being given,” said Jai Bhagwan, Police Sub-Inspector and Chowki in charge, Rajendra Park police station. So far, there have been two dengue deaths in his jurisdiction. Pushpa Bishnoi, CMO, Gurgaon, maintained that there had been no deaths from dengue and that the authorities were equipped to handle the situation.

There are 1,200 households in Budhera. There are no jobs to be had. Everybody does whatever work they can get. Those who can, go to Gurgaon. There was a time, said a resident, when wheat, cotton, sugarcane and vegetables were grown in the village. Not anymore. The people believe that industrial waste from companies in the industrial model township (IMT) in Manesar and further ahead flow through the fields, creating stagnant waterbodies. The water never dries, destroying agriculture. The large swathes of water that surround Budhera are breeding grounds for vector-borne diseases.

There are no government hospitals nearby. The Civil Hospital is the nearest one, but it has only 400 beds. The number of patients could be a couple of thousand at any given time, said village residents. The SGT is the only recourse in any emergency. Private hospitals were pulled up by State Health Minister Anil Vij, who said that no private hospital could declare a fever case as dengue unless it was verified by the Civil Hospital after conducting the requisite blood tests.

Divya Trivedi

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