Patna, June 23: With reports of deaths of almost 129 children from Encephalitis in Muzaffarpur in Bihar, and with more dying every day, it is pertinent to ponder whether our health system has completely collapsed.
The outbreak of Chamki Bukhar, as the disease is known in Bihar, is yet another incident which exposes India's poor healthcare system to the world. It has also laid bare the limitations of the Narendra Modi government's pet project - the Ayushman Bharat Yojana.
But the question is did it fail to tackle such health emergencies?
Ayushmann Bharat Yojana or Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana was termed as the game changer by World Health Organisation (WHO) as it said to be the World's biggest government scheme. It was launched by the Modi government in September 2018.
Ayushmann Bharat scheme provides a cover of up to ₹5 lakhs per family per year, for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation to over 10.74 crore vulnerable entitled families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries). PM-JAY provides cashless and paperless access to services for the beneficiary at the point of service. Under this scheme there are 1,393 health benefit packages with defined rates. Over 15,000 hospitals and health care providers have been empanelled across the country to provide healthcare services as per these packages.
However, the reason as to why Ayushman Bharat has so low coverage among encephalitis sufferers in Bihar remains unexplained. The answer may lie in the eligibility criteria and pre-treatment verification process.
It should be noted that the Encephalitis is not a new killer in Muzaffarpur. Between 2010 and 2014, more than 1000 children have died of the disease in the district. But still, the authorities and administration has failed to show a modicum of seriousness in tackling the problem. Encephalitis can be cured.
Yes, Acute Encephalitis Syndrome can be contained if the child is administered dextrose within four hours of the onset of symptoms. But every outbreak since 2010 has shown that Muzaffarpur's primary health centres, the first port of call for most patients, simply are not adequate to deal with the disease. Most do not have equipment to check blood sugar levels.