By Gautam Thaker*
Fatal claws and blows of swine flu and dengue have spread across Gujarat. Swine flu has claimed 28 lives in just one month. Over the month, 199 cases were registered, out of which 78 patients are undergoing treatment even today. In Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s business capital, more than 800 cases of dengue have been registered. Last year, till September 17, only 250 cases were registered. The epidemic has spread to Sabarkantha, Bhavnagar, Bhuj, Junagadh, Kheda, Surendranagar and Rajkot districts.
As many as 6,662 cases of H1N1 disease have been registered in Gujarat. Of these, 450 persons have succumbed to death. In Surat, every day, 1700 to 1800 cases of mosquito bite-related and water-borne diseases are being registered.
Over the last one week, one is given to understand from government and private hospitals, that the dengue virus is particularly highly dangerous. The efficacy of paracetomal medicine is not showing any improvement or positive results in the symptoms of dengue, it has been suggested. Even when it is administered through injection, the fever is not cured or controlled.
The dengue virus strikes hard and heavily on people having low resistance power against the diseases, and both these diseases are known to have spread more among patients of heart disease, blood pressure and diabetes, as also pregnant women and school going children.
The Water and Sanitation Management Organization (WASMO) had made a quality-related test of the drinking water in the year 2010 in some 16,427 villages, out of which 5,260 villages, i.e. 32%, had contamination in drinking water, hence it not found fit or safe for drinking. Due to this, 7,29,037 cases of water-borne diseases were registered that year.
Even then, the Gujarat government did not wake up from sleep and took no remedial measures during the last five years. On the other hand, the doctor fraternity asserts that epidemic condition seems to have aggravated or worsened due to the negligence and callousness on the part of different municipal corporation bodies.
In this context, it is important to talk about staff strength of medical units under the Health Department of Gujarat Government.
The Gujarat government spent approximately Rs 5,600 crore up to March 2015, whereas in the budget for the year 2015-16, an expenditure of Rs 6,153 crores has been envisaged. As the figures show, there is money, but no staff ! What else could be the best example of “good governance”?
Due to staff vacancy and manpower shortage in government hospitals, health services have deteriorated. Infrastructure facilities are also lacking. Equipped with 200 beds capacity, the Civil Hospital of Mahuva town (Bhavnagar district) does not, however, have even a single doctor on its roll. Four specialist doctors from the town offer honorary services for 2 to 3 hours by visiting the hospital.
At present, there is a shortage of 1,240 health centres in Gujarat. A report of the Health and Family Welfare Department of the Gujarat government admits shortage/deficit of 948 of subsidiary health centres, 219 of primary health centres and 73 of community health centres.
The problem of vacant positions of doctors in the rural areas has remained unresolved. Under such a situation, what else would happen, except that people of Gujarat would become sick with nobody to take care of them? The drama of celebrating dry day when mosquito-borne diseases prevails suggests how much the health department is serious about its working.
In such matters related to health, if spraying of insecticides and fumigation etc. are contracted out, then who would keep a vigil and monitor things? Lethargy or indifference of the authorities is also clear from how the government has remained indifferent towards the strike of the malaria department workers.
How can one make poor people, especially of villagers, disease-free without any facility of primary health centres? What kind of management is there on the part of the Gujarat government when it cannot provide precautionary, disease resistant medicines in the initial stages?
Only after all steps are taken for preserving health and hygiene in rural areas of Gujarat, and all the facilities are made available to them, can the expenditure of Rs 6,000 crore made by the Gujarat government could be considered as worthwhile or useful.
*General Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; mobile: 09825382556