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Fresh guidelines after swine flu death
Published on 5 Aug. 2009 1:56 AM IST
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Shaken by the death of a 14-year-old schoolgirl, India Tuesday issued fresh guidelines, including allowing home quarantine, to prevent a repeat of the country’s first swine flu casualty in Pune. The family of the schoolgirl, Rida Shaikh, have vowed to sue a private hospital in Pune for criminal negligence while Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the treatment was “too late” to save the girl. “We will take civil and criminal action against the hospital. The family will also sue for damages... We are not interested in the money. The money will be given to charity,” the girl’s family lawyer Asif Lampwala told reporters in Pune. An upset Sajid Shaikh, Rida’s father, said: “If they (private hospital) had sent Rida’s samples to NIV (National Institute of Virology) earlier, probably my daughter would have been alive today.” Her aunt Ayesha Shaikh added: “We didn’t know then but now we know that Ruby Hall, where Rida’s samples were sent for tests initially, was not authorised (to test swine flu). When we realised the truth, it was too late.” But the private hospital denied the allegation. “We refute all allegations and are ready for any inquiry. We will cooperate in all investigations to prove that we are innocent,” said Medical Superintendent of the Jehangir Hospital Prasad Muglikar. “We did enough to save the girl. We have all documentary evidences and we intimated about the patient to deputy director district health services, Pune, and the Pune Municipal Corporation Aug 1,” he said. The Maharashtra authorities began probing the probable lapses on the part of the Jehangir Hospital, where the girl was admitted July 27, and also issued notice to Ruby Clinic where the girl’s blood tests were conducted. The state government also declared Pune and Satara districts as affected by the swine flu pandemic. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan squarely blamed the Jehangir Hospital for Rida’s death. Chavan said the government would take action against the hospital for the “lapses” that led to the girl’s death. Rida was first taken to a general physician after she suffered flu like symptoms. “When her condition did not improve, she was taken to a private hospital and treated for normal flu for two days. When her condition deteriorated and the lungs were affected, then they (hospital) realised that it was not normal because flu doesn’t affect the lungs. But by that time it was too late. It was too late for the Tamiflu medication,” Azad said. He said the health ministry will issue new guidelines to private hospitals on how to handle swine flu patients. India has reported 574 swine flu cases, of whom 470 have been discharged from hospitals. A total of 2,528 people have been tested for the flu. Delhi has seen the maximum number of swine flu cases in India so far with 163 patients, closely followed by Pune. According to official data issued here Tuesday, Pune has reported 112 cases since India reported its first swine flu case May 16. With experts and doctors warning that the monsoon and winter months could mean more cases of the flu, the health ministry issued fresh guidelines. Patients who exhibit H1N1 symptoms have to report to government hospitals but would be allowed home quarantine if the case warranted. Issuing the revised guidelines, Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary in the central health ministry, said clinical assessment would be carried out on patients only at identified government hospitals. “We want to address the apprehension and concerns of the people and don’t want a repeat (of the Pune incident),” he told reporters in New Delhi. He said the revised guidelines followed fears that people would be kept in isolation wards in hospitals for treatment. He added that home quarantine would be allowed only if government doctors give the go-ahead. “In case the patient decides for home isolation, he or she would be provided with detailed guidelines to be followed by the entire household,” he added. There is no change in the guidelines meant for passengers arriving at airports with flu like symptoms. He said India may come out with a vaccine for the dreaded influenza A (H1N1) infection by September. The central government also plans to call a meeting of major private hospitals and medical practitioners to sensitise them about swine flu. Joint secretary Chawdhry denied any action was being contemplated against the Jehangir Hospital by the central government. “Health is a state matter and it is the state government that can decide the course of action,” he said. “The Maharashtra government has invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act making it mandatory for people suffering from swine flu to be admitted in designated government facility. The government will share details about the incident with us in the next few days,” he said.

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