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Swine flu helpline down with virus

punjab Updated: Feb 24, 2013 00:58 IST
Neha Arora

State health authorities seem to have been oblivious to the death of 30 people of swine flu, as the majority of its special control rooms telephone lines, set up to guide citizens on preventive or treatment measures, were either found not responding or attendants failed to 'properly guide' the callers on dealing with the deadly disease, an HT exercise has brought to light.

"This is Jalandhar civil surgeon office. Today is holiday. The office will remain closed on Monday as well due on account of birth anniversary of Guru Ravidass. Seniors will be able to guide you on swine flu only on Tuesday. It's better that the patient is admitted to the civil hospital," Mithu Ram, peon, who attended this correspondent's call on Jalandhar control room number 0181-2224848, said.

He was of little help to the 'patient' after being told about the symptoms and only parroted that the patient must be admitted to a hospital.

"A specialist doctor for swine flu is not available to diagnose your mother's disease right now. He is on another duty and will be busy in the pulse polio campaign on Sunday. You will have to wait for some days to get treated or you can get tests conducted from private labs and visit the civil hospital to get free medicine," a lady attendant on Moga control room number 01636-223398, said.

In Rupnagar, health minister Madan Mohan Mittal's home district, the situation was no different.

"This is the phone number of chief medical officer and not that of the civil hospital. I don't know the civil hospital's number. It will not be worth to call the hospital now, since its already 3 pm. You should visit the hospital instead of taking advice on phone. From which newspaper you got our phone number?" Satnam Singh, who attended the call at control room number 01881-221242, said.

Amritsar control room was even worst in delivering information about preventive measures. One of its phone numbers 0183-2211864 remained unattended even after 15 continuous attempts of this correspondent, while the second phone number 0183-2530489 did not exist.

The phone numbers of control rooms at Barnala (01679-233042), Ferozepur (01632-245173), Faridkot (01639-250947), Fatehgarh Sahib (01763-232136), Gurdaspur (01874-240989), Kapurthala (01822-233770), Ajitgarh (0172-2270091) and Tarntaran (01852-501028) were not attended to, in spite of repeated attempts.

The service to the Patiala control room number (0175-221619) was temporarily withdrawn. Sangrur (01672-234180) did not seem to exist. The department failed to release control room numbers of Pathankot and Fazilka districts.

The Malwa region of the state especially Bathinda, Faridkot and Sangrur districts, was adversely affected by the swine flu spread by H1N1 virus in the recent past. "As many as 140 patients were tested positive for swine flu till Friday evening. Thirty of them died due to the disease," Deepak Bhatia, state nodal officer told Hindustan Times over phone in the morning.

An advisory issued, asks public not to panic, since adequate arrangements to prevent the spread of the disease and to provide free treatment and medicines had been made at the district and sub-divisional level.

In the morning, Bhatia said, "We have sufficient vaccines in the stock at all civil hospitals of the state. The health officers have been directed to ensure quick response to the disease Facilities of free sample collection, free testing, free medication for the person suffering are available".

In the evening, when Bhatia was told about the status of the control room numbers, he said that the mobile numbers of the district nodal officers given would be working.

"We have to check the landline numbers as they were printed from the old list. We will print the fresh list of the numbers in the newspaper in few days. The patients will be guided only on mobile numbers as the operators on landline will just inform them to reach hospital immediately as they are clerks and not the doctors."