We are well-equipped to deal with any health scare: PMC's health department chief
In the first of a weekly series that will seek answers to some of the most pertinent questions you have about the city and its underlying issues, team mid-day speaks to Dr S T Pardeshi, the Pune Municipal Corporation’s health department chief, about cleanliness in the city, the dengue outbreak and the Ebola scare
mid-day: Why there is an outbreak of diseases like dengue, swine flu, etc. every year?
Pardeshi: Pune has a good climate suitable for humans, and now it has become suitable for insects and mosquitoes too. A large number of dengue cases are taking place in other cities too, but local administration departments there do not have the numbers. We were not ready to handle communicable diseases till 2010 either, and felt that there should be an epidemic cell at the PMC to tackle such situations. Now, we have made it mandatory for the 610 civic hospitals across the city — out of which 70 per cent are general hospitals — to share information with us about communicable diseases like dengue, malaria, TB, AIDS, etc. and the cases they receive. We have started recording the exact number of cases of various diseases reported across the city through this system, which has come to be known as the Pune model.
Dr S T Pardeshi, the PMC health chief, seemed confident of the department’s preparations to deal with disease outbreaks, and optimistic about its efforts against female infanticide, with the healthier sex ratio in the city. Pic/ Shashank Sane
mid-day: How is the PMC trying to prevent the spread of dengue?
Pardeshi: People are not taking proper care to prevent the breeding of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito responsible for the spread of dengue. Two years ago, dengue was mostly restricted to the slums, but now it has entered middle-class residential areas as well. Dengue mosquito breeding is an indoor problem that citizens are not taking seriously. Most of the breeding spots of these mosquitoes are found inside their homes — behind refrigerators, plant vases, etc. But there are natural ways to prevent dengue.
mid-day: What natural prevention methods do you suggest?
Pardeshi: Natural ways to prevent dengue include breeding butterflies and moths, as butterflies can prevent the transovarial transmission of the viruses (transfer of the virus from parent mosquitoes to succeeding generations). But the butterflies need to be kept in natural and free surroundings, and not trapped inside nets, as their lifespan is three days. If this method is implemented, it will take 10 years to stop the spread of dengue. Interestingly, in Pune city we have seen more dengue cases in Sahakar Nagar, which is the only place with a butterfly park. So basically, dengue in our city is a man-made problem. As we will clean our houses during Navratri and Diwali, we will automatically clear out the mosquitoes’ breeding spots, and dengue
cases will drop significantly.
mid-day: We have seen many government offices or places where mosquito breeding has taken place. Has there been any action taken against the responsible officials?
Pardeshi: We are warning government officials, but are not penalising them. We had a co-ordination meeting with various departments and instructed the concerned officers to take preventive measures in their jurisdiction.
mid-day: How are we dealing with the Ebola scare, and are we prepared to handle Ebola patients?
Pardeshi: There are no Ebola cases reported here so far, and we are well-equipped to handle such cases. We have 10 beds ready in isolated cubicles at Naidu Hospital. At present, the situation is absolutely in control, and Punekars need
mid-day: Has the location for the incinerator (for animal carcasses) been finalised? When will it start operating?
Pardeshi: We recently had a meeting with the district collector regarding this, and have sought permission for shifting the carcass disposal plant. We have identified an area in Hadapsar and will soon shift it there. The imported machinery for the plant has already arrived.
mid-day: Is there any shortage of insecticides and manpower in the insect control department?
Pardeshi: We have total staff strength of 640 employees, out of which 240 positions are vacant. The recruitment rules have recently been passed, and we have asked higher authorities to fill all these vacant posts as soon as possible. Regarding the supply of insecticides, the tender process had been delayed earlier, and a shortage was there till July, but there is no shortage currently.
mid-day: Have you been able to hire enough radiologists for the sonography centres run by the PMC?
Pardeshi: We have only one radiologist, who visits Kamla Nehru Hospital and the Gadikhana centre. According to our rules, any person with a diploma in Gynaecology can do a sonography test, so we have trained five gynaecologists. We are going to increase the number of sonography centres, starting with the hospitals at Sonawane, Kondhwa, Sahakar Nagar and Bopodi, and will eventually cover all 17 civic hospitals. The problem is that we have not been able to find enough radiologists. Ideally, they should serve at PMC hospitals on humanitarian grounds.
mid-day: Are you planning a fresh drive for Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act cases?
Pardeshi: We have registered 62 cases so far, but these days fewer cases are reported. The sex ratio has also improved to 934 girls for every 1000 boys, compared to the earlier 921. The problem we are facing with PCPNDT is that nurses are not ready to act as decoys and help us identify the culprits, fearing the wrath of the doctors.
(Salil Urunkar, Niranjan Medhekar, Priyankka Deshpande, Anuj Ismail, Kartiki Lawate, Shashank Sane, Manasi Kulkarni and Juili Eklahare were part of the mid-day panel)