New Delhi: With the number of H1N1 cases in India bordering on 600 now, people are demanding easier accessibility to treatment and the Tamiflu drug only available at government hospitals and testing centres.
“Without test, we cannot say if it is common flu or swine flu. Government alone cannot handle it. They have pointed out only 10 hospitals, which is a grossly inadequate number given the population. Private players must be allowed,” says Gulab Gupta, a private physician.
However, after the tragic death of 14 yr old Rida Shaikh in Pune in a private hospital, the Government is adamant as it fears private players may hoard the drug or sell it at a higher price.
“We want to keep drug administration regulated so patients don’t use this indiscriminately,” says Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health, Vineet Chaudhary.
Doctors have already predicted that a second wave of swine flu may hit any time post monsoon and is likely to be more severe than the current strain.
But there’s some hope. Some state governments have started identifying private hospitals that could also treat the virus.
However, the concerns remain.
“They should agree they will provide services and abide by guidelines, admissions and disicharge proceses,” says Director of Health and Family Welfare, Karnataka, Dr TS Cheluvaraj.
A private hospital in Bangalore is already working in tandem with the Karnataka government to treat H1N1 patients...it has an isolation ward in place.
“It’s very easy to set up an isolation ward. The basic needs are clean rooms, a toilet, a cot and ventilation, that's it. It’s easy,” says Director of Lakeside Hospital, H Paramesh.
But in New Delhi, there's no consensus. Private hospitals say they're willing to pitch in, but want the government to provide all the resources.
“In case they want us to help they will have to provide us with the drugs. Also if government charges us for it we'll also charge the patients,” says Director, Max Hospitals, Parvez Ahmed.
While the negotiations between the government and private players continue, it's the public that's bearing the brunt.