The microbiology department that doubles up as vector lab at MGM Medical College, Dimna
If you have dengue-like symptoms — abrupt fever accompanied by pain in joints and skin rash — in Jamshedpur, wait for at least three days for confirmation. The sole dengue detection lab for Kolhan region has run out of test kits.
Your serum samples — along with many others in a batch — will now go all the way to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi for the confirmatory test.
Then, as government hospitals in Jharkhand don’t use email for official work, pathological reports will be sent to Jamshedpur via courier.
MGM Medical College in Dimna, Kolhan’s only vector-borne disease detection centre, exhausted its stock of MAC Elisa dengue test kits on Monday. The Telegraph in its September 20 report “Sole dengue test lab runs short of everything” had warned about the alarming shortage of essential items at the MGM lab.
However, no supplies arrived at the lab.
As on Wednesday evening, 22 serum samples had been collected at MGM. They will leave for RIMS in Ranchi on Thursday morning.
East Singhbhum additional chief medical officer (ACMO) Swarn Singh, who doubles up as the district surveillance officer for communicable diseases, said Karma Puja, a state holiday, fell on Wednesday. “That’s why samples will leave on Thursday,” he said.
But the graver issue is not a day’s delay. A district reeling under vector-borne diseases and yet not having kits in its only testing lab reeks of administrative mismanagement and apathy. In East Singhbhum, 22 cases of dengue have been confirmed. As many as 1,500 malaria cases have been detected, with eight fatalities. Two Japanese Encephalitis cases have also been detected.
ACMO Singh passed the buck to the state malaria department for the exhausted test kit stocks.
“The state malaria department has to give us Elisa test kits. National Institute of Virology in Pune gives test kits to the department. They know about the shortage,” he said.
Though admitting that patients would now get confirmatory results of whether they at all have dengue or not three days late, he added in the same breath that it did not matter.
“Yes, as samples will go to Ranchi and results will come from there, things will take time. Had the test been done at the MGM lab, results would have been out in a day. But it is not a major issue,” he said.
Asked why, he added treatment of patients “is done symptomatically at health centres by replenishing platelets”.
“Even after confirmation, there is hardly any change in the line of treatment for dengue,” claimed Singh.
State malaria officer Pradeep Baskey teamed up with Singh to downplay the issue.
“We got the information a bit late. But, I have asked the ACMO (Singh) and district civil surgeon Jagat Bhushan Prasad to arrange the procurement of Elisa test kits from nearest possible centre, for instance Calcutta, instead of waiting for them to arrive from NIV, Pune. They have assured us it would be done. We will pay the amount,” said Baskey.
Microbiology department head at MGM A.C. Akhoury said he had feared such a hopeless situation.
“I sent reminders to the district malaria officer, district civil surgeon and district surveillance officer at least three times in the last one month citing shortage of test kits and other key items. Nobody bothered. Now, we have kept serum samples in the refrigerator and will comply with the ACMO’s directive to send them to RIMS,” he said.
He added that “out of frustration” he had even approached National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme deputy director Kalpana Baruah for procuring Elisa test kits. “But she said they could send the kits only after a written directive from state malaria department,” said Akhoury.
Is this a new low for state healthcare?