The Encephalitis breakout in the state of Bihar has killed over 150 children as per the official data. Every day the no. of kids dying are increasing. The state has year after year seen multiple deaths due to this disease.
In 2014, in a similar outbreak, about 379 children died. Even then the Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan promised a 100-bed ICU in Muzaffarpur. That promise, unfortunately, is still not fulfilled. This year again Dr Harsh Vardhan made similar promises.
The current situation has caught the entire nation’s attention. National Human Rights Commission even sent out notices to the Centre as well as the state government for “deficiencies and inadequacies in the healthcare system” which led to the deaths.
One of the doctors who has served in the North Bihar area, which is the worst affected by the breakout, tells The Logical Indian that infrastructure is deplorable. “There are no adequate doctors. Timely appointment of doctors are not made and they are just carrying on with the available staff.”
Dr Kafeel Khan, who hit headlines in 2017 after Gorakhpur BRD hospital tragedy where over 60 children died of oxygen supply, has now gone to Muzaffarpur to assist families affected by the disease. He is holding multiple camps in various villages and hamlets surrounding Muzaffarpur.
“Poor Doctor: Patient Ratio”
In a conversation with The Logical Indian, Dr Kafeel Khan said, “I have come to Muzaffarpur to help the families who are affected. Since I will not be able to go to the hospitals that are providing them with treatment, what we are doing is visiting peripheral areas and conducting awareness camps and advising them, giving them medication and referring serious cases to medical hospitals.”
Speaking about the condition of healthcare in the state, Dr Kafeel Khan says that more children have died of administrative failures than that from the disease itself.
“The situation of the hospitals is too bad, there is a serious lack of infrastructure. It is lacking in paramedical staff, nurses and equipment. There are a lot of patients. In fact, in one of the hospitals, there is a big hall which houses hundreds of ailing children. The high temperature is adding to the woes. There are just 4 ICUs housing about 230 children and the doctors are visibly overworked. As per the WHO guidelines, the doctor: patient ratio should be 1:4, but here the ratio is clearly skewed. The nurse to patient ratio is 1:60 whereas ideally, it should not be more than 1:2,” said Dr Khan.
On the steps that could be taken, Dr Kafeel Khan said, “The death toll is said to be over 150. But this is only considering children those who have died in hospitals. Many have died during the commute between their village to the hospital, which has not been recorded. I have spoken to families, all of them are poor and they have confirmed the same. I believe that Primary Health Centres are the first contact between patient and Medicare. It is very important that the symptoms are recognised at the first stage and referred to the hospital before its too late, which PHC can very well do. We need more PHCs for that.”
In his parting note, he says that the worst affected are the poorest of the poor. He says that the government should get in specialists from best hospitals, even airlift patients to be shifted to Delhi if need be.