Lucknow: Has the battle of the Uttar Pradesh government against Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and AES (Acute Encephalitis Syndrome) in its eastern part been lost to red tape? The answer, shockingly, seems to be yes.
Even as the death toll of kids falling to the deadly viral disease mounted to 555 up to Saturday, the health department has been busily engaging in `processes,` admitting that "lots of things still need to be done."
Sources reveal that while the state government had ordered the construction of a 100-bed hospital for AES patients - to be built at a cost of Rs.18 crore [US$3.26 million] - the tendering for the same is still on. According to government timelines, the "lenter of the ward" would be up by March 2013.
The story is the same with paediatric wards to be set up in the nine districts affected by AES. The wards are still not complete. There is thus no place where ventilators (124 of them, according to an announcement by the Samajwadi Party government in June) can be installed.
Of the 22 ventilators installed at the Baba Ram Das Medical College in Gorakhpur, most are on lease from other medical colleges of the state, said principal secretary (Health) Sanjay Agarwal, who also candidly admitted that apart from statistics which show a marginal decrease in JE deaths from 5.97 percent last year to 4.02 percent in the corresponding period till November this year, a lot was still to be done.
The fact that the deaths have not stopped and that hundreds of kids have fallen prey to encephalitis has forced chief secretary Javed Usmani to shoot off a terse message to district magistrates of the JE-hit districts in eastern Uttar Pradesh and health officials, urging that they "ensure that no JE deaths are reported in the next season" or be ready for stringent action.
In a letter to these officials, Usmani has fixed responsibilities and clearly spelt out that officials would be personally held accountable for deaths in their respective zones.That sounds like an invitation to suppress reports, not to suppress encephalitis.