August 12, 2009

Private hospitals, labs gear up for A(H1N1) flu

A large number of private hospitals and laboratories were being accredited by various state governments Saturday to treat A(H1N1) flu patients as well as test for the influenza A (H1N1) virus, in the wake of government-run hospitals being overrun by people wanting to be tested or treated.

Eleven private hospitals in Bangalore were accredited late Friday night after the central health ministry took a decision in this regard in the evening. Other state governments were reportedly following suit.

Panic-struck people have been making a beeline to government-run hospitals across the country for tests after India recorded its first A(H1N1) flu death Aug 3.

"We have decided to allow private laboratories with high level of bio-safety to conduct the A(H1N1) flu tests but only after they are accredited by the health ministry based on their testing capacity," union Health Secretary Naresh Dayal told reporters Friday.

The government also announced that supply of Tamiflu, the only known medicine for A(H1N1) flu, will be further decentralised at district level to tackle the pandemic.

"We have also decided to separate isolation wards from testing centres to avoid any accidental exposure of people coming for the A(H1N1) flu test in isolation wards," said Dayal.

However, the health ministry has refused to allow sale of Tamiflu over the counter.

"The people tested positive for A(H1N1) flu at private laboratories have to come to a designated government hospital to get Tamiflu. They can show us the prescription of the doctor from the concerned hospital and government hospital will administer vaccine to them," he said.

According to Dayal, the government is not allowing private sale of Tamiflu to avoid people buying and consuming it without having been infected with the H1N1 virus. Accredited private hospitals will be allowed to stock and administer the medicine, however.

The number of A(H1N1) flu cases spiked sharply as 96 fresh cases were reported Friday, taking the total in India to 712 so far. Among those who tested positive were four doctors, including three in Delhi.

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