Following the death of 17 residents of Gandhi Camp locality due to gastroenteritis, a team of health experts from New Delhi arrived here on Friday and said the cause of the outbreak would be ascertained in the next 24 hours.
The five-member team from the union ministry of health and family welfare first went to the affected locality, where they studied the living conditions, including the sewerage system. The team also took water samples from the pipes.
Later, the team went to the civil hospital, where 17 patients were admitted on Friday for gastroenteritis taking the total number of those hospitalised to 30. The team members talked to the medical staff and patients.
After examining the patients, the team said it was satisfied with the treatment being given by the local health department and that steps taken by it were appropriate.
"The cause of the gastroenteritis outbreak, which has taken 17 lives in the last 10 days, will be established in the next 24 hours," Dr Somnath Karmakar, who is heading the team, said. "The water samples have been sent to the laboratories. After determining the cause, we will give directions to the local administration so that such outbreaks do not happen."
Local MP Partap Singh Bajwa, who had taken the initiative of bringing the health team, blamed the state government, especially the health department for not taking precautions to prevent the disease outbreak.
"Although the first death due to gastroenteritis was reported on October 1 and till October 8, 10 persons had died, it took more than a week for the civic authorities to chlorinate the water of the affected locality," said Bajwa.
The MP demanded health minister Madan Mohan Mittal's resignation alleging that even after 10 days had passed, he had not issued even a single statement in this regard. "Even local bodies minister Chunni Lal Bhagat should have visited the town," he added.
"At least BJP MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu could have come from Amritsar, as in her capacity as chief parliamentary secretary she is in charge of the health department," Bajwa said. "Moreover, she is a qualified doctor and could have judged the seriousness of the situation."
He said it was unfortunate that chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal despite visiting Amritsar could not make it to Batala.
Bajwa praised Rajya Sabha member Avinash Rai Khanna for granting Rs. 22.5 lakh from his MP fund to the local health and civic administration.