Gujarat is widely considered to be one of the most developed and industrialised state in the country. The Gujaratis are known for their astute business acumen and they symbolise success. The chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, is a man of strong convictions and sports a business like no nonsense attitude. The chief minister is widely known to harbour Prime Ministerial ambitions, has the big guns of the Indian industry eating out of his hands and is clearly aiming for higher office mostly on the back of his success in Gujarat.
Thus it came as a shock that in Modi’s shining Gujarat, scores of people have died of a hepatitis outbreak. Hepatitis B and D are stalking the town of Modasa in the Sabarkantha district, about 50 kms from Ahemdabad. The government machinery is struggling to cope with the situation and the toll is likely to go up.
The outbreak is a result of unsafe medical practices both amongst private medical practitioners as well as government hospitals. Infected needles from government hospitals found their way to medical shops via scrap dealers. It seems their are no checks on medical waste disposal and unscrupulous elements have a free run of the place.
I do not know what kind of doctors are these, who used discarded syringes in their nursing homes and private hospitals. Apparently, this had been going on for sometime with no one being any the wiser. While the government machinery has swung into action now, arresting negligent doctors, sealing clinics and medical shops and educating people about the diseases one is left wondering if this is not the proverbial case of being too little too late.
The Health Minister of Gujarat, Jay Narayan Vyas believes that the government infrastructure is more than adequate and since the disease has an incubation period of 90-180 days, it is impossible to know about the disease before it surfaces. To a an outside observer like me, this only reveals that such medical practices have been going on unchecked for 3-6 months and the government’s public healthcare machinery is either colluding or is fast asleep. I would bet my money on the former.
To make matters worse hepatitis cases are also on the rise in adjoining districts of Vadodara and Surat. 39 cases of Hepatitis E have been reported from Surat and 28 from Vadodara.
If this is the state of affairs in modern Gujarat, I shudder to think of the medical infrastructure and practices in backward regions of UP, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa. It seems that the entire healthcare infrastructure in much of India riddeled with greed and callousness, bringing out the worst in medical personnel, healthcare officials and of course the politicians.
This outbreak is a nasty reminder of all that which is rotten in our public health system and needs to be fixed on a priority basis. The guilty must be booked and met with exemplary punishments, healthcare officials must be dealt with sternly and the politicians asked not to play politics with the health of the people they represent.
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