It seems that being economically constrained is a double blow for the critically ill swine flu patients in Bhopal. Despite the recurring outbreak of the deadly infection in the city over the last three years, government hospitals have not been able to set up adequate critical care infrastructure for the patients, forcing them to opt for expensive private treatment.
The recent incident where a critically ill swine flu patient was turned away from both JP District Hospital and Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre due to unavailability of vacant ventilator underlines this worrisome fact.
Since the three major government hospitals (JP, BMHRC and Hamidia Hospital) with swine flu care facilities have in all only four ventilators, many patients needing critical care have to seek recourse of the almost unaffordable private hospitals.
Munna Lal Chourasia, resident of Sagar district, was sent back from JP Hospital on Saturday night by the doctors, who claimed that all the ventilators were occupied. His son Ravikant got the same reply at BMHRC. Finally, Munna Lal was admitted at private Chirayu Hospital, but only after the personal intervention of chief medical and health officer (CMHO) Dr Pankaj Shukla and district collector Nikunj Shrivastava.
Kin of another swine flu patient, Karuna Tiwari, also alleged that they were sent back from Hamidia and JP Hospital due to which they had to take Karuna to National Hospital for treatment, though they cannot afford the cost of treatment there. According to the health department records, 20 ventilators have been dedicated for swine flu patients in Bhopal and out of them only four ventilators are in government hospitals.
Sources said the cost of treatment for the critical swine flu patients is anywhere between Rs. 2-3 lakh. A bill of Rs. 3 lakh for treatment of a below poverty line (BPL) swine flu patient from Sagar, who was treated at a private hospital, was reimbursed by the health department a few days ago, sources said. Pankaj Shukla said a survey was conducted in 2010 following the swine flu outbreak, according to which there were 100 ventilators in Bhopal district. But only 20 of these are dedicated for swine flu patients.
He said a few more critical care beds ( with ventilators) should be made available in government hospitals to help those who were unable to afford the treatment cost in private facilities. Director health Dr KK Thassu, who is in-charge for Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, could not be contacted for comments despite repeated attempts.