In Punjab, 42 people have died of swine flu and 193 have tested positive for the virus this season yet the state's hospitals are ill-equipped to detect the infection and depend on Chandigarh's Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER).
Amritsar has seen the highest number of six deaths and 23 positive cases followed by Jalandhar with five deaths due to swine flu and 20 positive cases. State capital Chandigarh has reported four deaths and 17 positive cases so far.
To treat patients suffering from the H1N1 virus, the Punjab government says it has reserved 389 beds in government hospitals across the 22 districts. Another 389 beds have been identified in private hospitals of the state.
Though district hospitals are equipped with isolation wards and have adequate medicines to deal with swine flu, health officials admit they depend on PGIMER, Chandigarh, for detection of cases. As a practice, swab samples of suspected cases are sent from the districts to Chandigarh and the detection report is expected after 24 hours. To ascertain the sensitivity of the virus, the Chandigarh laboratory takes 48 hours.
Amritsar lacks infrastructure to deal with the H1N1 cases. While there two isolation wards in government hospitals in the town, private hospitals despite having their own isolation wards, prefer sending serious patients to government hospitals.
That the deaths of a number of patients admitted to the isolation wards of the government hospitals, particularly Guru Nanak Dev Hospital of Amritsar Medical College, is attributed to the failure of the ventilator and the poor power backup system, is evident from the protests that followed these deaths.
While Amritsar has a swine flu lab, it is not operational and the samples are sent to PGI for testing. Dr Raju Chauhan, district epidemiologist, however, said, "The number of patients admitted to the isolation ward at Guru Nanak Dev Hospital is negligible as compared to the rush a few days ago." He claimed government hospitals were well-equipped and had ample stock of Tamiflu to fight the infection.
Patiala lacks virology lab
The Government Rajindra Medical College And Hospital in Patiala, which is one of the state's major super specialty hospitals, does not have a virology laboratory. As a result, samples of suspected patients from the city and its neighbouring towns of Nabha, Samana and Rajpura are first brought to Rajindra hospital from where they are sent to Chandigarh.
Chief medical officer HS Bali said, "Doctors at PGIMER, Chandigarh, are asked to give reports early in emergency cases. The government plans to open two virology laboratories in Jalandhar and Amritsar. The labs in private hospitals are also not reliable."
Haryana also looks to Chandigarh
In Karnal district of neighbouring Haryana, the state health authorities have roped in two private hospitals to ensure prompt medical attention to swine flu patients. So far the district has seen 12 positive cases. Karnal civil surgeon JS Grewal said apart from the Kalpana Chawla Government Medical College, the health department has asked managements of Mahabir Dal Charitable Hospital and Dr Kamal Charaya Hospital to reserve isolation wards.
"Both private hospitals are equipped with ventilator machines, while complicated health cases are referred to PGIMER,Chandigarh, or institutes in New Delhi," he said.