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City hospitals geared up to treat swine flu patients

POSITIVE cases of the global pandemic H1N1 (swine flu) have been steadily rising in the country including the City. Considering the contagious nature of the flu, are other hospitals equipped to deal with swine flu patients?

Presently, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD), Victoria Hospital and Lakeside Medical Centre and Hospital admit patients infected with the flu.
Dr Umapathy, CEO of Apollo Hospitals said, “We are prepared to handle swine flu cases. We have single isolation rooms and in case the patient’s condition worsens we also have ICU isolation room.”

He said that their hospitals in Chennai and Hyderabad are being asked by the US Embassy to take American citizens, as they don’t want them to be admitted in the government hospitals for long.

Dr Lloyd Nazareth, COO, Wockhardt Hospital, stated that the hospital is technically equipped to handle such cases. “We just require a day or two to revamp the place and we will be ready to admit swine flu patients,” said Dr Nazareth. The hospital is keeping a record of the patients, who come with symptoms of swine flu. Dr Nazareth said that they have a few isolation rooms and other protective equipment for doctors,” he added.

Mallige Medical Centre Hospital has been approached by the Health Directorate for creating provision for H1N1. The Hospital’s Administrative Officer Dr Sangeetha said that there are isolation wards available in the hospital. “However only doctors referred by District Health Services will be assigned to collect samples and provide medication to the H1N1 infected patients,” she said.

Dr Purnima Parthasarathy, head of Infectious Diseases at Manipal Hospital, said,”We have isolation rooms, as we also get patients suffering from other contagious infections like chicken pox and TB. If a patient is referred to us  we can handle the case,” she said.
Similarly, St Martha’s Hospital has all the facilities to deal with swine flu patients. “We have earmarked the area, which can accommodate 20 beds,” said the hospital’s medical superintendent.  However, at Mallya Hospital, the Medical Officer Dr Umera said that they don’t have an isolation ward. Hosmat Hospital Vice-President Dr Ajit Benedict Rayan said that they have not been approached by the Health Department.  “Unless we learn about H1N1 flu and its treatment procedure, we cannot commit,” said Dr Rayan.

BGS Global Health Hospital does have a separate isolation ward. But Vice-Chairman of the Hospital Dr Venkataramana said, “If the Health Department approaches us, we are ready to accommodate the patients.”

Technical snag delays reports
The test results of suspected H1N1 flu  expected to arrive on Saturday evening were delayed as the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) machine stopped working for 20 minutes at the National Institute of Virology in Pune on Saturday.

The incident happened when the samples were being processed for testing in the PCR machine and the UPS  went off due to a technical snag. However, technicians set the machine running.  The PCR machine was later restarted .

RGICD sent these samples on Friday and the results were expected on Saturday evening. However, doctors at RGICD are expecting the results on Sunday.  Meanwhile 21 patients visited RGICD for screening and 15 throat swabs have been sent to NIV  on Saturday.

(Published in Deccan Herald in July, 2009; along with Poornima Nataraj)

*My first article in the newspaper

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