The Health Ministry will issue new guidelines to private hospitals on handling swine flu patients, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Tuesday, a day after India's first death from the influenza A (H1N1) virus in Pune.
The 14-year-old who died in Pune on Monday after she was admitted to a private hospital got the correct treatment "too late", Azad told a television channel.
The ministry, which had been mulling the issue, would come up with new health guidelines for private hospitals on Tuesday, he said.
"It is a deterrent when a person develops symptoms of flu it is compulsory that he be hospitalised and isolated. Most people don't like that. We have had talks with experts and doctors and are going to issue new guidelines today which say that it is not necessary to isolate a person at the first instance.
"There should be tests conducted and if the person tests positive for H1N1 virus then it can be decided if he needs to be hospitalised or put under medication."
"This will be a relief to people," he added.
The new guidelines will also allow certain private hospitals to collect samples from suspected H1N1 virus patients and send them for laboratory tests.
"No private or government hospital has a laboratory where the sample of the virus can be tested. There are 18 laboratories in the country where the tests can be done. But we will now issue guidelines which will designate some private hospitals across the country to take samples of suspected patients and then send it to the laboratories to be tested," Azad said.
"We will then try to test and give results within 24 hours. The patient can then be treated at his or her residence or be hospitalised."
Reiterating the history of the Pune case, Azad said the teen had fever and was taken to a doctor who treated her for normal flu. Then she went home. When her condition did not improve, she was again taken to a private hospital and was treated for normal flu for the first two days.
"When her condition deteriorated and lungs were affected then they (hospital officials) realised that it was not normal because flu doesn't affect the lungs. But by that time it was too late. It was too late for the Tamiflu medication," Azad said.
Seven more people tested positive for the flu Monday, taking the total number of cases to 558 in the country. Of these, 470 patients have been discharged after treatment. About 2,479 people have been tested so far.