It's past 7 pm and a pall of gloom has descended outside the pediatric hospital of the Firozabad medical college. Tensed family members of patients admitted inside the hospital take refuge under a shade, some resting on the concrete floor. Blaring ambulance sirens and shrill cries of help frequently tear into the morbidity. Meanwhile, it's all hands on deck inside the hospital, which is abuzz with activity till late in the night.
At the registration counters, a team of hospital staff behind a desk try to handle the overwhelming rush of patients and their attendants. Occasional instructions to be in queue and maintain order goes unheard by the attendants, with some among them looking for immediate medical intervention for their ill family members, mostly children. This is what the situation looks like in hospitals in UP's Firiozabad.
Even before Uttar Pradesh could return to normalcy after being hit by a deadly second wave of COVID-19 earlier this year, the state has come under the grip of a dengue and viral fever outbreak, which has claimed hundreds of lives across the state. The public health infrastructure and facilities have again been put to test against the overwhelming surge of fever and dengue and the local administrations in several districts have been caught off guard. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in July this year had claimed that the state is fully equipped to handle the anticipated third wave of the pandemic, which is likely to affect children.
PATIENTS TURNED AWAY, DISCHARGED WITHOUT RECOVERY
On the ground, the situation is in sharp contrast with the claims of ample medical infrastructure in place to handle pandemic. Surendra Kumar's nine-months-old daughter Nikita has not opened her eyes for the past two days. Reports indicated that Nikita's platelet count has plummeted to 38k, way below the normal count ranging between 1,00,000- 4,50,000 per microliter of blood. After consulting private doctors who advised immediate admission at a pediatric facility, Surendra rushed his daughter to Firozabad medical college.
""She has not opened her eyes for the past 48 hours and is neither eating or drinking. Her platelet count is 38k but the doctor here says everything is normal. He handed me two bottles of syrups and said this will make her (daughter) feel better."" - Surendra Kumar, Nikita's father
Toddlers and children clinging on to the shoulders of their parents standing in long queues and waiting for their turn at the hospital counter is a usual sight in the hospital. The security has also been beefed to keep prying media eyes at bay. Attendants are being issued identity cards by the hospital authorities and the same is being thoroughly checked at two points by armed policemen and hospital security before one can get inside the ward.
Several patients complained their family members admitted at the hospital are not being given proper treatment and alleged that hospital authorities are insisting on discharging patients without proper recovery or have been referring to higher centres in Agra and Delhi.
""My daughter has been admitted here for the past four days. Her fever has been recurring but the doctors insist we take her back home. They made her discharge slips. If my daughter recovers fully, I will take her home. I am not here to enjoy leaving behind my work and life."" - Santosh Kumar Goswami
COVID-19 DEJAVU: FUDGING OF DEATH TOLL DATA?
Six-year-old Vaishnavi died at the Firozabad medical college on Tuesday, 14 September. The Quint met the grieving family members at the hospital who claimed their Vaishnavi was suffering from fever for the past three days and was admitted a day prior to her death. Other attendants waiting outside the hospital and policemen deployed at the spot tried to console the grieving grandmother.
However, Vaishnavi's death was missing in the official data released by the local administration. On the status of patients in the pediatric department as of Tuesday, the hospital claimed 421 patients were in bed. Zero deaths were recorded on Tuesday, the day Vaishnavi died at hospital. Allegations of local hospital administration suppressing death toll data have also surfaced.
Firozabad district magistrate Chandra Vijay Singh while speaking to media said 60 deaths have been recorded since the outbreak of dengue and viral fever in the second week of August last month.
""This figure could increase because we are auditing deaths that took place in private hospitals and outside the district. We are learning about certain deaths through local newspapers and we are trying to reach out to them. The reason for those deaths can be ascertained only after the audit."" - Chandra Vijay Singh, district magistrate, Firozabad.
While the government death toll is at 60, local media reports tracking individual fever deaths claim the figure is well above 150. Earlier this year, the state government was at the centre of massive criticism for fudging data of the casualties during COVID-19.
VILLAGERS PREFER PRIVATE CLINICS OVER GOVERNMENT HOSPITALS
In Firozabad, villages are the worst hit. The Quint went to Sofipur and Nagla Chura village to take stock of the wrath of dengue and viral fever outbreak. Amid all the chaos and health crisis in the district, a primary health centre in Nagla Chura village was shut.
""When it is operational, there is no doctor at the disposal of patients here. We have complained to concerned authorities but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears."" - an elderly local in Nagla Chura village
Private clinics in these villages are packed to the brim. At these clinics, modest rooms have doubled up as wards amid the recent surge in patients complaining of fever. Men, women and children can be seen recuperating on benches with drip bottles hung on the walls of these rooms.
""We barely get to consult doctors at government hospitals. There are no doctors, no one knows when they will be available."" - Kishori Lal, a local visiting a private clinic in Sofipur village
While villagers show a lot of faith in doctors at these clinics admitting patients by flouting norms, senior doctors in the hospitals put the blame on medical practitioners at local clinics for the increase in cases of critical patients.
""Families approach local clinics and consult quacks during the early stages of illness. The patients are referred to the hospital only after their condition deteriorates."" - a doctor at Firozabad Medical College
In a crackdown by the health department in the district, FIRs under sections of IPC 419 (punishment for cheating by personation) and Medical Council Act were registered against eight quacks and notices were sent to 200 unauthorised clinics.
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