By Sumit Saxena
New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) The Bihar government on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court it is grappling with 43% shortage of doctors and nearly 70% shortage of nurses and ANMs together, yet it has waged a battle against acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) to protect and save human lives.
The government in an affidavit, filed in response to the apex court notice on state of health system to address AES deaths, accepted that overall human resources available in health system is not as per standard norms, and that the health department is taking steps to recruit medical officer, para-medicals and other technical support.
The government admitted 43% shortage of doctors and 70% together for nurses and ANMs in the state.
The government told the apex court that treatment of AES is free under Ayushman Bharat PMJAY scheme. The government has also issued detailed guidelines on AES especially in the litchi growing and established seven pediatric ICUs, having 10 beds, at six major hospitals in the affected districts.
Last week the top court sought reply from the Bihar government about the steps taken to prevent the recent deaths of children due to AES. The government said it has taken all possible steps to prevent and cure the diseases and also initiated measures to contain its spread.
Additional Director, Health Department, in an affidavit submitted in the apex court, said “He is fully aware of and quite conscious of recurrent resurfacing of the AES cases in Bihar”, and that the government has been continuously taking steps and waging a battle against the dreaded AES disease in order to protect and save precious human lives.
The government in cooperation with AIIMS and other agencies has provided all medical facilities to treat the affected children, and the fatality arising out of the disease has been reduced.
Elaborating on the steps taken, the officer said the government has provided additional medical facilities in the affected region, and increased public awareness at the village level.
The officer informed the court that due to change in weather conditions, there is substantial reduction in reported cases of AES in the state.
According to the status report of the government 824 cases have been reported and 157 lives have been lost to the disease. The government claims that 604 cases of AES have been reported to date.
In 2012, the government had formulated a Standard Operating Procedure for treatment of AES, and it has been revised in 2018 according to the feedback and suggestions of the physicians involved in the treatment of the disease.
The government also submitted an AES Gap Assessment Monitoring format with reports. “The government has ensured availability of essential equipment and drugs at 222 primary health centres of 12 endemic for AES district”, said the affidavit.
The court’s response came on a PIL filed over the outbreak of AES, which claimed the lives of more than 140 children in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district. A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and B.R. Gavai had said: “This PIL raises a matter of grave concern about nutrition, sanitisation and hygiene.”
The court observed that the deaths due to the outbreak raise questions on the availability of medicines along with the public policy in place to counter the current scenario.
The court noted that all the victims were children therefore. Issuing the notice, the court asked the parties to file an affidavit within seven days.
The plea filed by two advocates, Manohar Pratap and Sanpreet Singh Ajmani, contended that the state and Central governments should work in tandem to immediately arrange 500 ICUs (intensive care units) with required medical professionals to deal with the situation.
(Sumit saxena can be contacted at [email protected])