fever outbreak

Chennai’s government hospitals are filling up with dengue patients from around Tamil Nadu

With district hospitals unable to treat the more serious cases, ambulance loads of patients are being transferred to city hospitals.

When his 13-year-old daughter Priya developed fever, D Koilpillai first took her to the primary health care at his village. Koilpillai is a construction labourer from Poonimangadu village in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvallur district.

“She was given a report saying that her condition was normal,” he said. “When she began vomiting and having high fever again, we took her to the Tirutani [taluk] hospital.”

From there, Priya was transferred to the Tiruvallur district hospital, and when her platelet count continued to dip, she was sent to the the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital in Chennai.

Several of Koilpillai’s neighbours have taken this circuitous route to get treatment in Chennai for dengue and other viral fevers.

“Three people from my colony are also here in this same ward,” said Koilpillai.

Most patients at the 100-bed special ward for dengue and fever cases at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital had been referred there from the neighbouring district hospitals in Tiruvallur and Kanchipuram. The ward was full over the weekend. But there are seven other wards in the hospital, packed with patients with lower-grade fevers.

“Our hospital is seeing a turnover of at least 100 cases a day,” said a duty doctor at the hospital.

The hospital staff are visibly stressed by the large number of patients, and the corresponding increase paperwork. Even private hospitals have been referring serious fever cases to the government hospital.

The outbreak

Over the past few months, Tamil Nadu has seen a spurt in reported cases of dengue, as well as viral fever accompanied with low platelet cells. According to The Times of India, at least four people died of dengue in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry on Saturday. Over the weekend, about 11,000 patients had been admitted to hospitals across Tamil Nadu for fever, of which 200 were confirmed cases of dengue. Chennai alone had about 1,500 cases.

State health officials say that they have been taking action against the spread of dengue. About 35,000 workers have been engaged across the state to clean up potential mosquito breeding sites.

“We are providing treatment according to the World Health Organisation protocol. In places where we are seeing a cluster of cases, we have a rapid response team in place,” said Director of Public Health D Kolandasamy. “If anyone is feeling feverish, we are asking them to come to a government health facility.”

The government has also asked at all serious dengue cases be transferred from district hospital’s to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, said a hospital staff member who did not want to be identified. “But, the district general hospital should be able to treat dengue, it’s not that difficult,” he said.

According to S Raghunandan, professor of medicine at Madras Medical College, the district hospitals are referring only patients needing high-end care and blood component therapy, which includes platelet transfusion for dengue patients. “All the district hospitals have been strengthened and given adequate training to handle fever cases,” he said.

Patients are being transferred to the Government General Hospital Chennai. Credit: Vinita Govindarajan
Patients are being transferred to the Government General Hospital Chennai. Credit: Vinita Govindarajan

However, many patients and their families say that they have not received adequate treatment at district hospitals.

N Sugandha complained that her daughter, 24-year-old Jenifer, had got little attention at the Tiruvallur district hospital where she had first been admitted with fever and low blood platelet count – both symptoms of dengue – a week ago and that her condition only deteriorated over four days at the hospital.

“Her platelet count dropped from 1,26,000 to 44,000 while at the [Tiruvallur district] hospital,” said Suganda. “The nurses call out asking the sick to come to a common desk for injections and medicines. How can they expect half-conscious patients to get their own treatment?”

When Jenifer did not get better, the district hospital doctors referred her the Chennai government hospital.

Overcrowded hospital

On Sunday, Sugandha sat outside the dengue and fever ward of the Chennai hospital while Jenifer rested inside the ward on a bed draped with a leaf green mosquito net. After spending three days getting treatment for dengue at the Chennai hospital, Jenifer’s fever subsided but her platelet levels were still low. “They took blood samples twice to test for dengue, but they have given us the report yet,” said Sugandha.

The hospital’s doctors have been testing all fever patients for dengue using two tests – the NS1 antigen test for rapid detection and the ELISA antibodies test that is a more conclusive test.

Two of Sugandha’s neighbours, who live on Vembuliamman koil street in Tiruvallur district, are also patients at the Chennai hospital.

“We live right next to a temple tank, which is filled to the brim with rainwater,” said P Mahalakshmi, whose son 16-year-old Abhishek was admitted in the ward. “People in our neighborhood are saying that the water is the main reason for their illness.” Stagnant water such as that in temple tanks are often a breeding ground for the Aedes mosquito that spreads dengue.

Even as doctors and hospital staff rush to treat the large number of cases, more patients with fevers arrive at the hospital. Uma Maheshwari, whose daughter Jayalakshmi had been admitted to the Chennai hospital on Saturday, recounted how they came from Chengalpet in an ambulance packed with 10 other patients.

“At Chengalpet, they told us that they cannot handle serious cases,” she said. “It took us two hours to get here. They made some people sit on other’s laps to fit more people.”

Support our journalism by paying for Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Bringing the glamour back to flying while keeping it affordable

The pleasure of air travel is back, courtesy of an airline in India.

Before dinner, fashionable women would retire to the powder room and suited-up men would indulge in hors d’oeuvres, surrounded by plush upholstery. A gourmet meal would soon follow, served in fine tableware. Flying, back in the day, was like an upscale party 35,000 feet up in the air.

The glamour of flying has been chronicled in Keith Lovegrove’s book titled ‘Airline: Style at 30,000 feet’. In his book, Lovegrove talks about how the mid-50s and 60s were a “fabulously glamorous time to fly in commercial airlines”. Back then, flying was reserved for the privileged and the luxuries played an important role in making travelling by air an exclusive experience.

Fast forward to the present day, where flying has become just another mode of transportation. In Mumbai, every 65 seconds an aircraft lands or takes off at the airport. The condition of today’s air travel is a cumulative result of the growth in the volume of fliers, the accessibility of buying an air ticket and the number of airlines in the industry/market.

Having relegated the romance of flying to the past, air travel today is close to hectic and borderline chaotic thanks to busy airports, packed flights with no leg room and unsatisfactory meals. With the skies dominated by frequent fliers and the experience having turned merely transactional and mundane, is it time to bid goodbye to whatever’s enjoyable in air travel?

With increased resources and better technology, one airline is proving that flying in today’s scenario can be a refreshing, enjoyable and affordable experience at the same time. Vistara offers India’s first and only experience of a three-cabin configuration. At a nominal premium, Vistara’s Premium Economy is also redefining the experience of flying with a host of features such as an exclusive cabin, 20% extra legroom, 4.5-inch recline, dedicated check-in counter and baggage delivery on priority. The best in class inflight dining offers a range of regional dishes, while also incorporating global culinary trends. Other industry-first features include Starbucks coffee on board and special assistance to solo women travellers, including preferred seating.

Vistara’s attempts to reduce the gap between affordability and luxury can also be experienced in the economy class with an above average seat pitch, complimentary selection of food and beverages and a choice of leading newspapers and publications along with an inflight magazine. Hospitality aboard Vistara is, moreover, reminiscent of Singapore Airlines’ famed service with a seal of Tata’s trust, thanks to its cabin crew trained to similarly high standards.

The era of style aboard a ‘flying boat’ seems long gone. However, airlines like Vistara are bringing back the allure of air travel. Continuing their campaign with Deepika Padukone as brand ambassador, the new video delivers a bolder and a more confident version of the same message - making flying feel new again. Watch the new Vistara video below. For your next trip, rekindle the joy of flying and book your tickets here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vistara and not by the Scroll editorial team.