Warnings on encephalitis and floods unheeded

If more children die in August in Gorakhpur and floods occur every year during monsoon, then why are we not prepared?

By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Tuesday 15 August 2017

BRD Hospital lacked basic infrastructure: CAG

More than 60 children have died at the BRD Hospital in Gorakhpur. The initial reason reported was shortage of oxygen in the hospital. The state officials say that these children had died of natural causes. BRD Hospital is well-known and most probably the only functioning government hospital in the area and children come here when all other treatment has failed. The death of so many children is a norm, they say.

Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report in June had pointed out that the hospital lacked basic infrastructure. For example, there was 27.21 per cent shortage of clinical equipment and 56.33 per cent of non-clinical equipment. The supply of oxygen is part of the non-clinical equipment. It seems that BRD hospital parked their funds (Rs 27.38 crore) in Lucknow. “The parking of funds not only violated the financial rules but also deprived patients of adequate healthcare as essential equipment could not be procured on time…,” the report said. Read the complete story


Brain fever epidemic: An eyewitness account

Poor administration and the alleged corruption in the hospital have made things difficult for doctors dealing with the brain fever epidemic that strikes eastern Uttar Pradesh with regularity. As people keep walking in and out of the doctor’s room, the doctors and nurses buy their own soaps to wash hands. The doctors pay the sweepers extra money from their pockets to clean the hospital corridors and wards. Then there are young medical students who cannot concentrate on work;  they tell doctor K P Kushwaha they are depressed and that  have not been home for any festival since they joined the medical college in 2007.

Each year, beginning July, parents start pouring into the hospital, with unconscious children dangling from their arms, suffering from the deadly brain fever. Few survive. Many of those who do develop permanent physical and mental disabilities. Read the complete story

Explaining encephalitis outbreaks

Outbreaks of unexplained diseases frequently remain under-investigated in India. Outbreaks of encephalitis which result in high mortality among children occur annually in Muzaffarpur, the country’s largest litchi cultivation region. A recent study published in journal Lancet, has linked the neurological illness to litchi consumption. Researchers from the National Centre for Disease Control (India) and the National Center for Environmental Health, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommended minimising litchi consumption to prevent illness and reduce mortality in the region. Read the complete story

India's own encephalitis vaccine

India began producing its own anti-Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccine, called JENVAC, in 2013. Japanese encephalitis is thought to be the leading cause of acute encephalitis syndrome. JENVAC is based on an Indian strain, so it was expected to improve the efficacy, availability and affordability. But did this increase the vaccine’s availability in affected regions? The disease spread to newer regions at the time, according to a report. The vaccine priced at Rs 70, was many times the cost of the imported product which was worth Rs 14. Read the complete story

Floods yet again: is this normal?

India’s meteorological department forecast a normal monsoon in 2017, but excess rain over short periods has flooded some of the country’s driest regions (like Rajasthan and Gujarat) this year. Most recently, eastern states of Assam and Bihar have been hit by fresh floods and army has been called for help. In Assam, 21 of the 22 districts have been affected. Some 80 per cent of the Kaziranga National Park, home to India’s one-horned rhinos, has been flooded.  Four districts in Bihar have been flooded as Tapti and Mahanadi rivers swell.

The pattern of floods in changing as erratic weather events become more common with climate change. Read the complete story

Missing doctors

India has a huge gap in the number of doctors, only one per 2,000 population, which is half of WHO’s recommended ratio. The doctor-patient ratio is worse in heavily-populated and poor states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha.

Corruption in medical education triggers corruption in healthcare systems. Malpractices such as overcharging and unnecessary diagnostics and the prevalence of quacks are rampant in India. Health experts have associated this malaise to the cost of medical education. The Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh exposes the criminal nexus which has infected India's medical system. Read the complete story

Government hospitals on sale!

India is eagerly handing over its public health facilities in towns and villages to private players. Is this the end of public healthcare?

 NITI Aayog, the government think-tank, has suggested running district hospitals on the public-private partnership (PPP) model because “the system continues to remain constrained with a set of systemic issues”. But experts fear privitising healthcare will make it more unafforable for the poor. Read the complete story

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