As dengue cases rise in Tamil Nadu, weary patients and panicked families are jostling for space at the already overcrowded government hospitals in Chennai.
Twenty-one-year-old Sudarshan was admitted to a government hospital in Minjur in the neighbouring Thiruvallur district. But three days ago, he was shifted to the Stanley Government Hospital in Chennai. “The Minjur hospital asked us to take my son to Stanley hospital as he had high fever. The Minjur hospital was overcrowded and they were not ready to treat serious patients. After coming here, he was given medication. But even this hospital is crowded, my son has to lie down on the floor or share the bed with someone,” says Murgesan, his father.
He added that many of his relatives and neighbours too had been shifted to Stanley hospital.
Tamil Nadu is grappling with dengue. More than 8000 people in the state have tested positive for dengue in the last nine months and it includes 130 people from Chennai.
Overcrowding in Chennai hospitals
With hospitals in other zones finding it tough to deal with patients, many are being referred to hospitals in Chennai, who are struggling to deal with the inflow of cases.
Government Stanley Medical Hospital situated in Mint has a 24-hour fever clinic.
Ammu, a daily wage worker from Puzhal in Chennai kept calling the 108 ambulance on Friday morning as both her sons, Kailash, (8) and Rahul, (17), had fever and were not in a condition to travel to the Government Stanley Medical Hospital.
“No one answered my call and I had to bring both my sons to the hospital, but what is the use? The doctors ask us to go to the first floor, when we go there they ask us to go to the ground floor. We just want some doctor to inspect our sons,” says Ammu wearily.
Ammu’s son Rahul has had fever for the last one month but she could not bring him to the hospital because of his exams. “One of the doctors scolded us for keeping him at home for one month. Now, when my other son also started having fever, I got scared and brought both of them to the hospital,” she admits.
The fever clinic is crowded and in spite of waiting for hours, many patients return back without meeting the doctor.
“It is crowded; we could not even go into the clinic. The wards are full too, there are two or three people sleeping on the same bed,” says Ammu.
Tired of the hassle, Ammu has decided to take her sons to a private hospital in Chetpet.
Chennai recorded three more deaths in the last week, while 27 people have died due to dengue in the state since January 2017.
Addressing the media, Health secretary J Radhakrishnan said that more than 70 people had died of dengue-related complications. While 10,392 people had tested positive for dengue, 99% of them have been completely treated, he said.
Low priority cases being turned away?
Ramesh, (38), a daily wage labourer, was being treated at a government hospital in Gummidipoondi, but decided to move out. “I was admitted for three days last week but my fever was not subsiding. I got scared and came to Stanley hospital. Three days ago, doctors gave me medicine. But I am back today as my fever is not coming down. But they are not ready to admit me as my fever is not very high and the hospital is overcrowded,” he says.
Like many others, Ramesh plans to stay in the hospital premises itself as he has been asked to take a blood test on Saturday.
Health Dept says hospitals instructed to admit all
However, Director of Public Health K Kolandaswamy refuted claims that government hospitals were turning away patients, stating that they have been instructed to admit everyone. “We have asked all the upgraded government hospitals to accept admissions. I will cross-verify whatever has been said. There are cases which are referred to government hospitals, as other hospitals fear taking in admissions,” he told TNM.
He added, “We are asking hospitals to admit as many patients as possible. Let them be under observation. People are under fear or anxiety, and want to get admitted. We only have to provide beds in most cases.”
Not just at the Stanley Medical College, but other hospitals too are struggling with the influx of patients. A senior doctor from the Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital in Chennai said that most of the patients at the hospital were from the city. However, Scroll.in reported that the 100-bed special ward for dengue and fever cases at the hospital mostly had patients referred from neighbouring districts like Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram. While the fever ward was overcrowded during the weekend, seven other wards were full of patients with lower-grade fevers.
The hospital also runs a 24-hour fever clinic for patients. “I have fever from morning so I came to see the doctor. They are treating well and giving proper medication,” says Kittupa, a worker at a hotel.
Kolandaswamy also said that they will form a team and visit the hospitals to boost the confidence among people. Asked if lack of facilities was the reason for patients being shifted, he said that there were similar facilities in other hospitals like Thiruvannamalai medical college, Chengalpet medical college etc.