ibnlive » Health

Aug 06, 2009 at 08:43am IST

Just 18 labs, 37 hospitals to deal with H1N1

New Delhi: The H1N1 Influenza A virus has claimed its first victim in India and there are 596 reported cases of people being affected by the virus. The death of 14-year-old Rida Shaikh has highlighted several loopholes in the system that is monitoring the spread of the virus.

Why was Rida's throat swab sent to Ruby Hall Clinic, a private laboratory for testing and not to the National Institute of Virology, Pune.

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Moreover, are private hospitals not aware of the laboratories authorised by the government to conduct the H1N1 test?

When the first case of H1N1 was reported in India on May 13 only two Bio Safety Level 3 labs were authorised to test samples.

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These two labs were National Institute of Communicable Diseases in Delhi and the National Institute of Virology in Pune. Now more than 50 days, almost 600 cases and one death later the number of labs has gone up to just 18.

Out of these three are in Delhi, two each in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka.

But some of the big states like Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have just lab each.

Only 37 government hospitals in 15 states have been identified by the government as those competent of handling H1N1 cases.

"If there is wide spread infection of H1N1 in the country then you may have a situation like many other countries that don't test but start the treatment straight away," says Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Vineet Chowdhary.

In spite of the fact that almost 70 per cent of health infrastructure and 80 per cent of the patients are managed in private hospitals, the government has still not made any effort to rope in the private sector.

Is the government really equipped to deal with pandemic-like situation? Are 18 laboratories and 37 hospitals across the country enough for India's population? The government must answer these questions.