healthcare

In the news: Death in a cash crunch, the fight against pneumonia and why measles isn’t history yet

A wrap of health news over the past week.

Infants die due to lack of payment for medical aid

Demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes compounded by callousness on the part of doctors and medical workers have resulted in at least three deaths in the past few days. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the sudden move aimed at flushing black money out of the economy. By the weekend, at least three people waiting in long queues outside banks and ATMs collapsed – two from seemingly exiting medical conditions and one from falling in an unsafe bank building – according to news reports.

But at a time of severe inconvenience, three other deaths have been reported because medical services could not be paid for. On Thursday night, a couple from Rajasthan’s Pali district lost their newborn son because they could not find and ambulance that would accept their Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes and take their child from a district t a city hospital. The boy developed breathing difficulty son after he was born and had been referred to the bigger hospital. But by the time his father gathered Rs 100 notes to pay the ambulance, the boy died, reported the The Indian Express.

In a similar incident, a newborn died in Mumbai’s Govandi after a doctor refused to treat the child after his parents ere unable to pay the nursing home’s deposit in currency other than Rs 500 and Rs 1000. Hindi newspaper Amar Ujala reported on Friday that doctors at the FH Medical College at Tundla, Uttar Pradesh turned off the life-supporting ventilator for a patient after refusing to accept the requisite payment of Rs 10,000 that the patient’s relatives offered in Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes.

India is failing against pneumonia

India has made no progress in fighting pneumonia and still registers the highest number of deaths from pneumonia and diarrheoa among 15 countries with significant pneumonia mortality at more than 2,96,000. Last year and in the years before too, India consistently took this dubious distinction, conferred on it by the Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report published by the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In 2015, these two diseases together were responsible for nearly one of every four deaths among children under the age of five.

But even 15 years since its introduction, five countries with the highest pneumonia burden, including India, are still not using the effective pneumococcal conjugate vaccines in their routine immunisation programmes. India’s health ministry only recently announced a partial introduction of the vaccine in five states from 2017.

This year, however, the report indicates that India has improved its action plan to prevent and control pneumonia along with 12 other countries.

Measles deaths due to immunisation gaps: report

Children continue to die of measles due to lack of political will to get each and every child immunised, says a new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organisation and other global bodies.

Although the number of deaths due to measles has fallen by 79% since the year 2000, some 400 children still die from the disease every year. More than 20 million children have been covered in mass immunisation drives and routine vaccination coverage between 2000 and 2015 but large immunisation gaps remain in several African and Asian countries, including India. About half of the world’s unvaccinated babies and 75% of measles deaths occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan and India.

Global health organisations have called for national governments to boost routine immunisations and surveillance to eliminate measles.

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