Swine flu poses humongous challenges to feeble Healthcare in Meghalaya

Written by Meghalaya Times. Posted in Editorial

Thomas Lim
The unfortunate incident where a woman died in Shillong due to swine flu, while another was still under observation, the 58-year-old woman, who tested positive for the flu following her return to Shillong after visiting her sons in Pune and Chennai, died on October 28, 2018 night at the city Hospital, the other woman, a resident of Mumbai, has been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus and is under close observation in the hospital, he said.
The woman was in Shillong to attend a religious convention. Swine flu is a respiratory disease which infects the wind pipe (respiratory tract) of pigs and gets transmitted to human beings. It results in nasal secretions, cough, decreased appetite and restlessness.

Meghalaya Health Officials has sounded a health alert across Meghalaya and has also alerted the Airport Authority of India officials at the Guwahati international airport, Shillong airport and officials from Meghalaya helicopter services.
The relief is that, both of them is suspected to have contacted the flu from outside Shillong, but Meghalaya health care have always comes under criticism for its poor services. While in India, since Independence, has achieved modest success when it comes to some aspects of public health while at the same time more people are being diagnosed with lifestyle diseases. The changing disease patterns as well as lesser expenditures on health as a percentage of total expenditures by the central government, followed by state government raise serious concerns about the viability of meeting the healthcare challenge. In most cases, access to proper treatments is only for the affluent while the rest have to resort to self-medication or home remedies.
According to a study, the government has around 20,000 hospitals that serve both the rural and urban populations. Added to this is the private healthcare system that ranges from quacks to hospitals with world class facilities. The private system is fragmented and largely present within and in the vicinity of urban agglomerations. In the future, access to these facilities will have to be re-looked at. These utilise the usage of technology for low penetration areas as well as newer access options in cities.
Regarding changing patterns of lifestyle diseases, there are close to 67 million people living with diabetes in India in the age bracket of 20-79 years according to international Diabetes Association (IDA).  Also, a study done by Global Burden of Disease (GBD) in 2013 found that 15.87 lakh people lost their lives in 2013 due to Ischemic Heart disease. It has seen an upward trend from 1990s.
Yet another silent killer is obesity, the prime causes of which, as identified by the study, include availability of cheap junk food as well as a sedentary lifestyle. Better nutritional choices, regular exercises, meditation, cycling and yoga can have positive benefits if done properly and in moderation. Health is not only about medicines and diseases but also about a feeling of positive well-being in life.
India is also home to 270 million people living below the poverty line, this section finds it difficult to link between Water, Sanitation And Health (WASH). Almost 60 percent of the people who do not have access to toilets in the world live in India. This is a matter of grave concern. It is because this that problems of public safety and public health arise.
Such preservation of mental and physical health by preventing or treating illness through services offered by private health profession and the government health centres are even much lower than the national scenario in Meghalaya, where the public health care centres in the rural areas are being managed by paramedical services or pharmacists, while the private consultancy is not available in rural areas and the ones in urban areas are not affordable even by the economically weaker section of the urban folks.  
Government hospitals in the district headquarters are only functional in name. They neither have life saving drugs nor medication for common infections. The physicians are available only in the Civil Hospitals, who are accessible to the Out Patient Department (OPD) according to their availability and not as per the scheduled visiting hours.
In most cases the specialized doctors refuse to serve the rural areas due to lack of infrastructure of the government health centres. Doctors now are so dependent on diagnostic equipments and machines and have totally stopped general practices for the rural population with simple stethoscopes and investigation base on patient complaints.
There is a total absence of health security or insurance for the individual and the poor saving habits of almost all working professionals renders it difficult to meet the immediate high cost of medical expenses especially in the private hospitals.
Poor personal hygiene and general illiteracy on healthcare responsibilities coupled with random waste disposal have compounded the problem.
In case of any emergency, plague or viral diseases, there will be a total breakdown in health services in the state unless the state government streamlines the functioning of Health Department. It is in this light that the healthcare challenge in Meghalaya is a humongous one.


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