People await their turn at the dengue detection camp in Bidhannagar Subdivisional Hospital on Tuesday. (Right) A technician works
on in the clinic with a bandaged finger. Pictures by Saradindu Chaudhury and Sanat Kumar Sinha
The health department has arranged for free blood tests for dengue detection at Bidhannagar Subdivisional Hospital and Matri Sadan. Such blood tests are extremely expensive in private clinics. A round of some of the township’s private clinics reveals that rapid tests (NS 1 antigen, IgG antibody and IgM antibody) together cost close to Rs 1,000 while NS1 Elisa, MAC Elisa IgG and MAC Elisa IgM antibody tests cost about Rs 1,500 each. This leaves many residents in Salt Lake and its fringes with no option but to flock to the government-run fever centres though, with the samples being sent elsewhere, they take at least 10 days to hand over the test reports. In contrast, the private clinics which do the tests themselves prepare the reports on the same day or latest, the next day.
The Bidhannagar Subdivisional Hospital is by far the bigger and more popular of the two.
Situated in DD Block, the 100-bed hospital is having about 60 patients come in daily with fever. There are four doctors working in shifts. But the problem area is the laboratory, manned by only two lab technicians.
At 9.30am on Tuesday, a long queue had formed in front of a ground floor room in the hospital. A printout pasted on the door described it as a dengue detection camp. Barring some from Salt Lake, the majority of patients was from adjoining areas — Kankurgachhi, Maniktala, Kestopur, Lake Town, New Town etc. The lone doctor on the shift was deciding if the patient needed to take a blood test.
The adjacent room where the blood samples were being collected was in dire need of more hands. Of the two lab technicians struggling with the rush, one has been transferred from the Integrated Counselling and Testing centre which does screening tests for HIV. He is assisting a senior lab technician who is from the malaria detection department. “It is impossible to work like this. I am having to take blood samples for tests as well as write down the patient’s history. Alongside the dengue tests, I have to take care of the tests in my own department too,” said the lady who joined the hospital in 2008. There has been no recruitment in the lab since then.
The biggest proof of the short-staffed situation is the bandaged middle finger of her right hand. “I cut my finger while making a blood smear on these glass slides. I might have got infected but I have to carry on,” she said.
She is drawing the blood samples with the same hand. “What can be done? The government has announced that free blood tests for dengue would be done here. So, people are coming here in large numbers. But we need more staff. We are coming in at 8.30am and going home late in the evening. Moreover, the blood reports of all patients admitted in this hospital have to be delivered first. So the whole process of sending these samples to National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED) for tests is getting delayed,” said the lady.
|The fever clinic at Matri Sadan. .
Pictures by Sanat Kumar Sinha
Once the samples are sent, it is taking another 10-12 days for the test reports to come from NICED. “Patients are complaining of delays but what can be done?” she said.
Awaiting her turn in the queue was Dolly Kundu, a 55-year-old resident of Labony. Running 102°C temperature, she had to wait for close to an hour. But the Kundus had no choice. “Our son too was down with dengue recently and had to be admitted to a private nursing home. That cost us a lot. We came here on learning that the test would be free and they would be getting it done at NICED,” said her husband Haripada.
At Matri Sadan, the Bidhannagar Municipality-run fever clinic is on the fifth floor of the EE Block facility.
The situation here is in contrast with that at the subdivisional hospital. There are enough doctors and lab technicians to attend to the 20 or so patients coming daily with complaints of viral fever.
There are four in-house doctors and one doctor on deputation from the state health department to treat patients reporting with fever. Five laboratory technicians man the clinic.
Because of its location at one extremity of the township, the pressure of patients is less here than at the better-connected and better-known subdivisional hospital.
The flow of patients is highest in the morning. Even then, there were barely half a dozen patients at the clinic when The Telegraph Salt Lake visited the municipality hospital on Tuesday morning. The rush, say officials, has reduced in comparison with what was witnessed a fortnight ago. “The torrential rain over the past few days is washing away the larvae of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which cause dengue,” said Dr Kushum Mondal, one of the doctors.
“The people coming here are mostly from the lower middle classes residing in Salt Lake or its adjoining added areas like Duttabad, Mahisbathan and Nayapatti. In some cases, the employers are bringing their domestic helps,” said Dr Mondal.
Patients are coming with fever ranging from mild to severe. “If fever persists for a few days and hovers around 103-104°C we are asking people to get a blood test done. All these years, we have known the typical symptoms of dengue to be persistent vomiting, gastro-intestinal disorder, pain in abdomen, loss of appetite and joint pain. But this season we are getting dengue patients in whom the typical symptoms are missing. In many cases there is not even joint pain, the greatest give-away symptom,” exclaimed health officer of Matri Sadan, Dr Suniti Mondal.
The blood samples are being sent to NICED for dengue fever test.
“We are dispatching the blood sample on the same day of collection. It is taking around 10 days to get the report from NICED. During this period, we are advising patients to take paracetamol to control the fever and handing them a diet chart to follow,” the health officer added.
Among the patients here, Ritam Sen, 7, was suffering from fever for the past five days. The boy from Bidhan Abasan was also nauseous. “He is not taking any solid food. I tried to make him have rice. Just the smell made him vomit,” said his mother Rita. Ritam had been taken to a local doctor who gave him paracetamol but that did not work.
Bubli Samanta had come with high fever and pain in the abdomen. “She is feverish for two days now. Our family physician had prescribed paracetamol. The fever did not subside. She started suffering from an upset stomach from today. So I brought her here for a blood test on our doctor’s advice,” said Kuheli Dutta of Karunamoyee Abasan, who was accompanying her domestic help.