DEHRADUN: Till March 19, eight cases of H3N2 influenza were reported from Dehradun while the cumulative count of the state remains at 10, according to data from the health department. The actual figures are suspected to be higher.
Authorities insist that the infrastructural capability to handle a pandemic-like situation that may arise because of influenza is up to mark. However, the viral spread comes amidst the removal of services of 1,600 contractual employees in the state, adding to the woes of patients and authorities alike. A source at Government Doon Medical College and Hospital told TOI that every other patient coming to the OPD and for treatment at the internal medicine department has flu-like symptoms.
“The situation here is so bad that currently, family members of patients are forced to push the wheelchairs themselves due to a severe shortage of support staff. These are the same people who had been hired during the pandemic. Now that the situation is on the verge of escalating, they were let go,” said a ward boy. Officials at the hospital insist that the termination of their services hasn’t created any issues but the ground situation says otherwise. Dr Sanjay Jain, chief medical officer, said, “There have definitely been issues due to staff shortage, but this has not impacted the treatment of patients. We have sufficient infrastructure to handle the situation. There is no need for panic; we are prepared.” Sources at the health department said that with H3N2 infections, low testing rates are an issue. In Dehradun, 2,000 samples have been tested so far, of which some reports are still pending.
“The real problem is that people aren’t opting for testing anymore. Physicians are recommending tests and genome sequencing in patients with symptoms but many of them are not getting it done. The real figures may be much higher,” said a physician at the Coronation District Hospital.
Most officials of the health department insist that the majority of cases are because of the changing weather and may go down after the rain spells. The Covid-19 tracker is also no longer being released as cases remained nil for weeks despite new strains coming up. Currently, testing capabilities and genome sequencing in Dehradun are being done by the Doon hospital. Samples from district hospital are also sent there. Sources said due to a lack of staff, sample collection, testing, and result procurement are taking longer than usual. OPDs at all government health centres are witnessing an increase of 20-25% in patients who have to wait in long queues and are facing longer waiting periods.