Announcing a slew of measures following the outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Tuesday assured a flat reimbursement of Rs 400 for patients traveling to the hospital to prevent delay in treatment, and directed an environmental study of affected areas.
Instructions were also issued for equipping primary health centres with necessary facilities so that children with AES symptoms in remote areas could be provided with medical attention closer home since, in several cases, the time involved in travelling to the district headquarters and seeking admission to hospitals had led to delay in treatments.
“CM gave a few directions. He said the main reason for deaths is that patients reach hospitals late. It’s been reiterated that patients won’t have to bear any expense in coming to hospitals. Their fare will be reimbursed, they’ll be given Rs 400 at a flat rate,” news agency ANI quoted Bihar Chief Secretary Deepak Kr as saying.
Earlier on Tuesday, Kumar visited the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur where more than 300 children have been admitted with complaints of AES since June 1. Kumar was met with protests from locals and families of the children who died due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).
Kumar also gave directions to convert Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) into a 2500-bed hospital (currently 610 beds), & 1500 beds should be arranged immediately in the 1st phase. A ‘dharmshala’ will also be built there for relatives & families.
The Chief Minister had earlier announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh for each child who succumbed in the outbreak. He also directed officials of the state health department, the district administration and doctors to take all possible measures to tackle the situation.
“It has been decided that a team will visit all houses, where children have been affected, to know their socio-economic and environmental background. Teams will assess their condition, poverty, sanitation and see if there was an environmental factor behind it,” Kr said.
Kumar, who had been away in New Delhi since Saturday, returned to the state capital Monday evening and held an emergency review meeting on the AES situation with officials. The state government later declared that it would bear the expense for treatment of those found with the syndrome even if it took place at private hospitals.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Monday issued notices to the Union Health Ministry and Bihar government and took suo motu cognisance of media reports about the rising number of deaths of children due to AES.
In the outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Bihar, which has witnessed close to 350 cases and 105 deaths till now, most of these deaths have been attributed to hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar. Hypoglycaemia is a commonly seen sign among patients of AES, and the link has been the subject of research over the years.