New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking directions to the centre to urgently provide all medical help to prevent the outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, which has claimed the lives of 117 children so far, and immediately send a team of medical experts to review and assist in the emergency situation.
The petitioners claimed that there was a complete failure of the state machinery to deal with the outbreak of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES), or Chamki Bukhar, and alleged that “there was no availability of doctors, beds, intensive care units and medical professionals to deal with an epidemic level situation".
The Supreme Court vacation bench comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant agreed to hear the plea on 24 June.
The petitioners also submitted that the disease was completely curable, but the inaction and negligence of the state government resulted in the death of the children.
The plea, filed by advocates Manohar Pratap and Sanpreet Singh Ajmani, also said that the central and Bihar governments should immediately arrange for 500 intensive care units (ICUs) and 100 mobile ICUs, besides having adequate number of doctors, medicines, medical equipment and other technical support to deal with the situation.
It also sought an extraordinary government order directing all private medical institutions in the affected areas to admit and provide free treatment to the patients.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Union ministry of health and family welfare sent a team of 10 paediatricians to tackle the situation. “Ten paediatricians, including five senior consultants and five paramedics from RML Hospital, and Lady Hardinge Medical College will be part of the five teams. The teams will strengthen the clinical care to the existing patients in the hospitals and also strengthen surveillance of cases from the peripheral areas," Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said.
The ministry has also deployed at least 10 more ambulances in the most affected blocks of the districts for round the clock services.
Also, 16 nodal officers (teams of senior doctors and an administrative officer) have been deployed at the Public Health Centres (PHCs) in the affected blocks.
To further strengthen the health infrastructure and facilitate the transportation of patients to the health facilities, the State Government has also made a provision to reimburse the ambulance charges if the patients are shifted privately by the family to the hospitals.
Neetu Chandra Sharma contributed to this story