The viral blame game

The thing about blame is that it usually comes full circle. As incidents of viral fever (Dengue, Chikugunya, etc.), in the city started increasing, we decided to investigate why there was such a widespread spurt this time, how it was being tracked, who was tracking it, what they were doing about it, if it could have been averted and how. We discovered a number of worrisome realities, and do not miss our report on pages 6 and 7. Here’s our view. First, the blame game. Doctors quietly charge the BBMP for failing in mosquito eradication this year in water logged areas.

The BBMP in the meantime, led by their Chief Health Officer, is quick to blame the public. Citizens create an uncontrollable menace of garbage, they charge-particularly coconut shells and wasted tyres, in which water accumulates and mosquitoes breed. Other reasons are tossed at journalists – migrant labourers importing the virus strands from rural areas. The public, of course, blames the BBMP, for failing in mosquito eradication and for not collecting and disposing off waste quickly.

Second, the tracking system was never there. The BBMP says doctors and hospitals are legally required to report dangerous diseases to it. Private hospitals are mostly not reporting. There is a catch. BBMP accept reports for its counts only if it is tested and confirmed by the National Institute of Virology. It’s not clear who will bear the cost of tests and related expenses. Worse, some doctors are not aware of the reporting requirement itself. Third, city doctors worry about talking to the media frankly, for fear the journalists may spin the story into panic and that it may reflect badly on their particular hospital. The problem with not being open, is that it tends to worsen the situation, not improve it.

Here’s what we did not see happen: Collectively, we did not hear of a single meeting or discussion between BBMP and doctors, called with urgency, early in the season or even by
early July, to discuss and issue critical advisories as needed. A city-level meeting called by the BBMP top brass could have even been held as a professional gathering for doctors and the BBMP health officers to simply and openly discuss the situation, share critical information, debunk unnecessary worries, and mandate minimum practices – such as early blood tests till the end of the monsoon season. Doctors and officials could find ways for each side to help the other deal with the crisis better.

It may be true that the BBMP is strapped because the public itself does not cooperate in garbage reduction. But if its health officers are not seen leading city-based health
professionals to work together to get the city out of the immediate crisis, what are they there for?

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