Huge crowds gathered on Wednesday at the two hospitals designated by the government to test for swine flu in Pune.
People queued up at Naidu Hospital from early morning; by 7 am, there were at least 300 people in line. “I don’t have time to check the exact number, but 900 to 1,000 people must have come so far,” said a harried Dr Sudhir Parsute, in-charge of swine flu testing.
As the wait grew longer, tempers flared and a scuffle broke out and the police had to intervene. An additional counter for flu screening was then opened.
“My granddaughter is admitted here… The crowd is increasing by the hour. On Tuesday, it was mostly school students, today it looks like the entire city has landed up,” said Aeleykutti Thomas (61), a retired nurse.
Most people had to wait nearly three hours. “I have been here since morning, but my son hasn’t been tested yet. There are suspected patients here; what if my son gets the virus from them?” said the father of a five-year-old. Of those that visited the hospital, 25 were admitted.
Though officials said Naidu was managing fine, some suspected patients said they were asked to go to Aundh Hospital because Naidu had filled up.
However, at Aundh Hospital, they were in for a shock. “The staff can’t speak English. I tried to explain I was referred by Naidu. I tried to get admitted, but the clerk referred me to the screening centre,” said a 22-year-old Manipuri.
A Briton complained she had got no food since morning. “My roommate is ill, though I’m fine. We were both admitted in the morning. The staff is so callous that I could walk out without anyone noticing,” she said.
No one, except hospital staff and patients’ parents, can enter a swine flu ward. But this reporter walked into a quarantine ward even as two nurses looked on.
Resident Medical Officer Dr Nitin Bilolikar said: “There is a continuous flow of patients… The staff is busy. They must have mistaken you for a patient’s relative… You should be careful.”
Meanwhile, chemists ran out of flu masks. Over 75,000 have been sold so far.
“There are three types of masks — a surgical mask, an anti-pollution cloth mask and the N95 for swine flu,” said Paras Jain, secretary, Poona District Chemists and Druggists Association.
Since the N95 is unavailable, people are purchasing any mask available. From 3,000 a month, surgical mask sales rose to 15,000 in the last 10 days.