Wednesday, August 16, 2017

In India: 'Rot is deep' at hospital where 85 children died

This file photo taken on August 12, 2017 shows relatives mourning the death of a child at the Baba Raghav Das Hospital in Gorakhpur, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh

Authorities have launched an inquiry into the causes of the oxygen disruption at the now-notorious Baba Raghav Das Medical College.

Inside the decrepit children's ward at an Indian hospital where 85 infants died last week, Ram Prasad prayed his two-year-old daughter would escape the same fate as he scanned the overcrowded hallways for a doctor.

His plight in 'ward 100', where the death of so many children has sparked outrage, is emblematic of a healthcare crisis where doctors are stretched to breaking point and hospitals run out of oxygen due to unpaid bills.

Authorities have launched an inquiry into the causes of the oxygen disruption at the now-notorious Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur, which Indian media has linked to the deaths of 30 infants last Thursday and Friday.

Local officials have blamed an outbreak of encephalitis for the deaths and denied a lack of oxygen was responsible.

But doctors and medical experts point to woeful underfunding in public health in eastern Uttar Pradesh, one of India's poorest regions, where just a handful of specialists are available to treat millions.

"This (deaths) won't change soon, as it isn't a simple oxygen issue. The rot is deep and the system needs to be overhauled," a senior hospital official told AFP in Gorakhpur, speaking on condition of anonymity.

India was spending just 1.4 percent of its GDP on public health in 2014 -- far below the global average of six percent.

In Gorakhpur, there are just 529 primary health care clinics -- less than half the number needed to cater for nearly 4.5 million people living in the district, July data from Brookings India shows.

There are just five paediatricians and 22 encephalitis treatment centres, despite the mosquito-borne illness wreaking havoc in low-lying areas of the state every year during the monsoon.

India's most populous states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are ravaged by encephalitis every year.

The disease, which affects mainly malnourished children, causes brain inflammation and can result in headaches, seizures, fever and even brain damage.

Professor K.P Kushwaha, who headed Baba Raghav Das Medical College until mid-2015, said the hospital could not cope with the volume of patients.

"The government now needs to make at least five such hospitals across the region to tackle this load and get better results," he told AFP.

Life and death

Prasad, a poor farmer from Uttar Pradesh, travelled roughly 65 kilometres (40 miles) with his wife and two-year-old daughter after the infant suddenly ran a high fever.

He arrived at Baba Raghav Das Medical College just hours after hospital authorities declared that another 25 infants had died over the weekend.

Prasad's daughter was found a bed in the overcrowded ward, where many parents were forced to squat on the floor in nearby corridors. It was worse in the neo-natal unit, where three to four infants crowded a single bed.

"We take turns to go out in the corridor and hall to rest, while the other one stands here," Prasad told AFP, gesturing to his wife and ill daughter.

"She probably has pneumonia, I don't know, the doctors haven't told me anything."

Just days earlier, panicked parents used manual pumps to help their stricken children as the supply of oxygen fizzled out.

Professor K.P Kushwaha's successor was stood down over the oxygen debacle, which allegedly stemmed from nearly $100,000 in overdue bills, some dating back to November.

His replacement, P.K Singh, promised conditions at the hospital would improve "whatever the shortcomings".

"I understand that the hygiene situation here is very bad and there is a risk of infection," Singh told AFP.

But the district's chief medical officer Ravindra Kumar told AFP nothing could change as long as encephalitis plagued the poor eastern region.

"So far we have only been shooting in the dark without much idea about its causes, prevention or the cure," he told AFP.

A lack of primary health centres meant illnesses were not detected early and by the time patients arrived at hospitals it was too late, said a local government official, gesturing to beds full of sickly children.

"If people like them get the right advice and prompt referral, it can make the difference between life and death," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Lassa Fever: Enugu govt stockpiles drugs to tackle disease

Lassa Fever

The govt said 86 disease surveillance officers had just concluded a simulation (mock) intervention and case definition training on Lassa fever.

The Enugu State Ministry of Health, on Monday, said it had stock-piled drugs and other consumables to tackle any possible Lassa fever outbreak in the state.

The Director of Public Health Services, Dr Okechukwu Ossai, made this disclosure to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Enugu.

Ossai said that 86 disease surveillance officers had just concluded a simulation (mock) intervention and case definition training on Lassa fever.

He stated that some community health informants also attended the training.

Ossai noted that the ministry was on top of its game, thus leaving no stone unturned to ensure optimal preparedness to tackle the disease.

“Our 86 disease surveillance officers and some community health informants had gone through the intervention simulation as well as the case definition training two weeks ago.

“They went home with a case definition chart meant to be pasted in their various offices in the council areas, secondary and tertiary hospitals as well as other strategic places.

“The case definition chart will help to remind them all they have learnt in the training and help to define symptoms properly,’’ he said.

According to him, the ministry is already on air at the grassroots, reminding people on the need to ensure environmental and personal hygiene.

“We are meeting with traditional rulers and community leaders routinely on the need to report any strange sickness to the nearest health facility,’’ he said.

Ossai noted that the ministry had been getting all the support it needed on disease surveillance and control from the State Government.

“We cannot afford to rest on our oars in order to ensure that the state is protected,’’ he said.

NAN recalls that Lassa fever had been reported in some states in the country.

Healthcare: Nursing, Midwifery Council set to embark on anti-quackery crusade

National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives protest in Ibadan - Photo for illustrative purpose only

According to the council, the enforcement was to apprehend and flush out all nurses, midwives and quacks practicing without an operational licence.

In its quest to curb quackery, the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria will soon embark on an operation “show your licence of operation and practice“.

Alhaji Farouk Abubakar, the Registrar and Secretary-General of the council, made this known to newsmen on Tuesday in Ilorin.

Abubakar said that the enforcement was to apprehend and flush out all nurses, midwives and quacks practicing without an operational licence.

“One of the greatest problems facing the healthcare delivery is dispensing of fake and counterfeit drugs as well as quackery among health practitioners.

“We are in the process of constituting a task force in conjunction with various state councils across the federation.

“This will be in partnership with the law enforcement agents who will be empowered to apprehend and flush out all quacks practising without an operational licence,’’ he said.

According to Abubakar, the council has improved its production capacity and issuance of licences to genuine members, which it had been announcing in the last eight months.

He said that the council had issued out and renewed over 22,000 licences to qualified members, warning that no member could practise without an updated licence.

The registrar said that an advocacy committee would also be constituted to campaign for the enactment of a law to check quackery in the profession.

“We intend to meet with some of our colleagues in the various state Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly on a bill to legislate against quackery.

“We also desire a greater working partnership and relationship between the state governments and our members,’’ he said.

Abubakar said that the council had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) to issue Higher National Diploma (HND) certificates to all its nursing and midwifery graduates.

He urged the council members to attend workshops and trainings so as to conform and be knowledgeable about modern information and communication technology. 

In Enugu: Govt to de-worm 400, 000 children

A child being vaccinated - Photo for illustrative purpose.

The govt said vitamin A would be administered on the children during the 1 Round of the five days exercise to enhance their health and well-being.

The Enugu State Government says it is targeting 400, 000 children under the ages of five for de-worming in the ongoing 2017 Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Week.

The state’s Director of Public Health Services, Dr Okechukwu Ossai, made the disclosure to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Enugu on Tuesday.

Ossai revealed that vitamin A would be administered on the children during the 1 Round of the five days exercise to enhance their health and well-being.

According to him, the exercise will be facility-based.

He said that all Primary Health Care (PHC) centres in political wards; general hospitals in council areas and tertiary health institutions would be part of the exercise.

The director noted that newborns would also benefit from immunisation, adding that children under the ages of one, who had missed any of their routine immunisation would be immunised in the exercise.

He said that nursing mothers would receive family planning talks, free HIV/AIDS screening, free insecticide treated nets, nutritional guidance, hygiene and environmental orientation.

Ossai added that the exercise would further reduce maternal and child mortality to the barest minimal.

He said that the state Ministry of Health had gone through religious bodies and community leaders to sensitise the citizens on the week.

Ossai said that the jingles on the exercise and its benefits had been ongoing in local radio and television stations in the state.

“We have kicked-off the 1st Round of 2017 Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Week in the state maternal and child mortality.

“It will mop up any uncovered area on maternal and child healthcare as Free and Compulsory Maternal and Child Healthcare is the cardinal programme of Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State.

“Both the newborn, children under the ages of five, nursing mothers and mothers have something to benefit in the exercise, which services will be facility-based,’’ he said.

NAN reports that the week, which kicked-off on Aug. 14, would end on Aug. 18.