The microbiology department that doubles up as the vector lab at MGM Medical College in Dimna. Picture by Bhola Prasad
A dengue-hit district does not know that top-notch ammunition is needed to battle a dangerous enemy.
East Singhbhum, where a dengue alert was sounded by state integrated disease surveillance programme on Wednesday, is relying on a shabby lab at the microbiology department at MGM Medical College in Dimna.
The lab, Kolhan’s only training-cum-detection centre of vector-borne diseases, is grappling with an acute scarcity of manpower and essential precision items even as the district — especially Jamshedpur and its outskirts — reels under cerebral malaria, dengue and viral diseases.
More than 1,500 people have been affected by malaria and 800 by viral diseases in East Singhbhum so far. Eight persons have died of cerebral malaria. Twenty-two dengue and two Japanese Encephalitis cases have been detected. Though there have been no dengue or chikungunya casualties, there is no doubting the seriousness of the situation.
At a time like this, shoddy facilities at the detection centre read like a textbook case of mismanagement.
It does not have a lab technician and is forced to make do with the services of a technician from the state reference laboratory (SRL). Reason? There is no counterpart at the microbiology department since one R.N. Sharma retired in 2011.
Department head of microbiology, who happens to be SRL boss, A.C. Akhoury said they used the services of the SRL technician who was “overburdened”. Even the fridge has come from National AIDS Control Office and not the health department.
“We manage with apparatuses from NACO, our blood bank and microbiology department,” he said.
But that is far from adequate. On an average, five sample tests for dengue, chikungunya, Japanese Encephalitis and cerebral malaria are conducted every day. But the lab reels under an overall shortage of 1,000 pieces of masks and gloves each, 5,000 pieces of microtips in each of the blue and yellow variants, 50 litres of distilled water, 5 litres of spirit and 20 bundles of tissue paper. There are hardly enough micropipettes that are absolutely essential for accuracy of test results where liquid samples are concerned.
Akhoury blamed the crunch on the callousness of health and malaria departments. “We gave three reminders to the malaria officer and his department, civil surgeon and surveillance officer before monsoon. We had warned that recurrence of malaria, dengue and viral diseases was likely. No one paid heed,” said Akhoury.
East Singhbhum district civil surgeon Jagat Bhushan Prasad admitted they had got letters from the MGM’s microbiology department on the shortage.
“I asked the district malaria officer to take care of MGM’s requirement from their funds under the vector-borne diseases control programme. But hiring a lab technician depends on the state health department. I can write to them,” offered the civil surgeon.
District malaria officer L.B.P. Singh said they would give micropipettes, microtips, blotting paper, masks and distilled water. Asked when, he trotted out the standard phrase “soon”.
Will the vector detection lab at MGM get supplies soon?