Members of over 16 mass organisations, public health and civil society groups came together at the Delhi Secretariat today to protest against the rapidly deteriorating health situation and apathy of private hospitals. The city has been witnessing a spate of tragic dengue deaths where private hospitals have been refusing to admit desperate patients and public hospitals are overburdened and under-prepared. Dengue has now reached epidemic proportions in Delhi as also experienced for the last decade. The number of reported cases so far is a record high (over 2500 cases by 19thSep), though the actual number is likely to be much higher than what is being reported.
Despite it being a known fact that Dengue generally peaks during the post monsoon season (during the months of August to October), the lack of preparedness of State agencies, the negligence and extremely weak response, blatant denial of health care reflect the apathy of the State and its disregard for people’s health rights and lives. The stories of Avinash Rout and Aman Sharma are unfortunate illustrations of this – they were citizens who had fallen prey not only to the disease, but also to the heinous acts on the part of the (only for profit) private health care institutions, and to the non-vigilance and non-preparedness of the State.
Annie Raja of NFIW demanded that the Delhi Government declare an epidemic and action a comprehensive epidemic control and response plan especially for the needy, economically weak and vulnerable communities. Joe Verghese of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan said ‘there is an urgent need for a citizen’s fact finding commission lead by public health experts to understand and draw wider attention to the systemic issues that lead to collective failure to manage the recent dengue epidemic in the state.’ Prof. Dinesh Varshney of Delhi University spoke of the corruption involved in medical education pointing out that ‘the Vyapam scam is happening in every state, not just in Madhya Pradesh’. He also stressed the need to declare an epidemic and immediate measures be taken including stringent action on private hospitals that are not adhering to rules. ‘In several countries around the world, it is compulsory for private hospital doctors to treat patients in public hospitals in an epidemic situation’, he said.
Citizens gathered protested against the extremely disorganised response by the state machinery which has only been passing the buck between state and central government and municipal agencies. A delegation of four representatives met the Health Minister Satyendra Jain with a memorandum of demands (attached) including long-term commitments to ensure fundamental and structural changes in the uncaring, inhumane and profit-driven health system.