Friday, May 04, 2007

One Gone, Many More to Come?

Twenty-three newborn kids died in Sree Avittam Thirunal (SAT) hospital, one of the premier hospitals in Trivandrum, Kerala, India in the month of April. The reason - microbial infection in the labor room due to the unhygienic conditions existing in the hospital.

Remember this happened in a state that is proud of its achievements in the health sector. Will this incident be an eye opener to the people/administration to give more importance to prevent environmental pollution and encourage hygienic practices in Kerala?

If we see what happened immediately after the above incident, the things are not going to change. The Government suspended the Chief of the Hospital. The opposition parties called for the resignation of Kerala Health Minister and painted the incident as a failure on the part of the LDF Government. For them it is the time to point fingers at each other. If one went through the statements made by the Opposition leaders in this issue one would get the feeling that the bacteria/virus responsible for this death knew that LDF and Achuthanandan were in power in Kerala and it is the right time to multiply itself in the labor room of the hospital and give a political shock to the LDF.

Such kinds of statements shift the focus from real issues. We have leaders who can talk hours about the harmful content in Pepsi/Coke (no one in the world had died drinking them) for hours but we don’t have any leaders/administrators who know that labor room and all the equipments should always be kept sterile.

The political parties instead of throwing mud at each other should have taken time to understand why this happened and worked together so that such a thing never repeats in future. See the sewer system in Trivandrum. All waste is dumped into the rivers and thus rivers get polluted. Best example is Parvathy Puthanar in Trivandrum. It is supposed to be a flowing river but it has become a place to dump waste and wastewater. What is the result of this exploitation? The various pollutants in this wastewater will percolate through the ground and reach the groundwater. This water reaches the well or the pumping station and people will drink this highly contaminated water. So in the near future if you hear news that more than 100 people in Trivandrum have a particular kind of incurable cancer don’t get shocked. These kinds of things are just waiting to happen.

I took Trivandrum just as an example. Being from there it was easy to explain. Other cities in Kerala are no way different. Can you find a place in Kochi that is not affected by mosquito menace? If things continue at this rate diseases like Plague, Malaria are around the corner.

So what is the solution? The simple solution is to make people aware of the importance of preserving the environment. But creating awareness and hoping things will change is never going to happen at all, at least in Kerala. I feel the Government/authorities should take steps with private participation to keep environment from deteriorating by developing proper infrastructure to prevent pollution.

Having lived and studied/worked as an Environmental Engineer in US for the last 6 years, I know the investment required to build such an infrastructure. The investment required is much more than what a state Government that is already having sufficient deficit can raise. We need to have a modern water treatment plant(s), wastewater treatment plant that is capable of treating all the wastewater generated in a city, scientific way to collect garbage generated in each city. This list can go on and on. This can be achieved only by private participation.

“Developing infrastructure by private participation” is an allergic term for many in Kerala. Those people argue that it will increase the price of basic necessities like drinking water and they also argue that private companies are making money by selling even the water of our land. The price of basic necessities may go up. No private investor will invest in anything if he cannot get his return back with profit. But I believe that the increased price we pay - say for drinking water- will be much less compared to the price our future generation will have to pay if we don’t develop our infrastructure and prevent pollution.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your idea is good, but as a long term strategy. But that does not have much relevance to the issue at hand. This has stemmed from what you have mentioned in the blog, politics. Let newborns go to hell, we want votes. The callous indifference of the hospital authorities is beyond description. It is heard there were reports about the bacterial attack, which were merely kept aside. Yes, they have the right excuse that they are short of hands. But had they enough hands, would the situation have been any different? In a country where one can go scot free after committing any heinous crime if he has the right political connections, one cannot expect anything better.


May 04, 2007 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Madhan Kumar said...

I agree with the author to the first part of the blog that we need sterile OR's and LR's in govt. hospitals. Also agree that it is time for the ruling party and the opposition to stop pointing fingers ans start working together.
But I do not agree to "But creating awareness and hoping things will change is never going to happen at all". The author says that the govt. should take all the actions for the pollution and it is not doing anything. I think we should stop "POINTING FINGER" at the govt. for everything and we as the citizens should start taking responsibilities. I think creating awareness will be the best way to go. My solution is to start making the people realise about their responsibilities. If we have to skip a generation to acheive it we should do it. Meaning, current generation are happy to do nothing and blame others. Very difficult to change them. But the next generation are young and energitic. Target them before we loose them.

May 04, 2007 2:38 PM  
Blogger Orchard Resident said...

The corruption and bad work practises in government hospitals in Kerala have to be gone through to be believed. Nurses have screamed at me for waking up a "duty doctor". Doctors leave en-masse for a friends daughters marriage, and patients have to run from pillar to post when things start going wrong, and there is no doctor around. And if this happens to educated people who kind of know how to work the system, think of the poor who are at the mercy of the health officials.
As long as a government "servant" has to be called "Sir" by the people who pay their salary, this treatment to people from the officials will continue.

May 04, 2007 7:20 PM  
Blogger silverine said...

It was distressing to read this sometime back and now it looks things have gotten worse. I was in Tvm recently and what I saw there shocked me. Especially since I am visiting the place after 5-6 years.
Great post!

May 05, 2007 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes - totally agree with your views. But our govt - or any govt in Kerala for that matter - as long as is run by politicians who only want to increase the weight of thier pockets - will never do this.

And like everything else, it will be a forgotten episode in history.
Good post, though !


May 05, 2007 6:06 PM  
Blogger Brijesh said...

Politics play a role in every walk of life in Kerala and that is main reason for our lack of development. If you have correct political connections you can do everything.

this awareness thing is going on for decades. but nothing worthwhile is happening. That is why I wrote like that.

orchard resident
the work culture in government hospitals are very bad. that is the main reason why private hospitals are mushrooming in Kerala.

Cleanliness has become a thing of the past. thanks for that link.

In another few weeks this incident will be part of history and bacteria and virus will rule the same labor room.

May 08, 2007 6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cannot agree with your view point.
* Compare Trivandrum Bangalore. Am living in bangalore for past 10 yrs. The govt is least bothered about drinking water or water scarcity. In TVm atleast we can safely drink corporation water. Having said that am not saying govt is very efficient. There are many things we as elements of society can do ourself rather than blaming politicians. How many of us will bother to pour a bucket or mug of water if we go to any public toilet? How many of us bother to cover a road side pool that generate mosquitoes? We put blame on Govt because that is the easiest way to avert from the responsibility.
* Regarding SAT, there are umpteen number of nursing homes and private hospitals in God's own country. People are aware of the inadequate facilities in Govt hospitals. If they already know the situation in Govt hospitals why are they still going there ? Is it because they charge less? Or are the doctors serving in such hospitals are more skilled? I think instead of blaming the existing Govt, we should blame the hospitals esp private hosptals who charge astronomical amounts. I think its high time govt think about a health care policy where all the hospitals charge uniformily. There is an obvious qn about cleanliness. I think the issue is with mindset. People working in Govt hospitals are least bothered abt patients. For them its a routine job and the union backing will protect them from any offense they commit. In addition to policy shift there should also be a change mindset of govt employees .. We ned to cultivate professionalism in all sectors of govt services.

May 08, 2007 7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And regarding the high cost of water treatment, I think rain water harvesting is the most cheaper method to preserve and use natural water. Our neghbour TN has made it a mandatory practice that every house should have a rain water treatment plant to approve building registration. We can follow such low cost practices. I think we have blamed enough on politicians, it is high time that we change first rather than changing one among us (politician).

May 08, 2007 8:07 PM  
Blogger Brijesh said...

Anon @ 11.51 AM and 12.07 PM
I was not pointing fingers on any one. I dont think there was a single criticism of the government in my post. I was just stressing the need of developing the infrastructure of our land. Govt cannot do it and it needs the help of private groups. Kerala has has history of shutting private sector out in many fields. I was just focussing on that aspect. I agree with most of your views.Rain harvesting is indeed a great way of preserving the natural water and it is good to see that TN govt had made it a mandatory one.

May 10, 2007 8:40 PM  
Blogger rathi said...

There are maintenance systems for the labour rooms, operation theatres etc. in any hospital.The blog and the comments so far are not pinpointing the failure of the hospital authorities for maintaining bacteria free wards/labour rooms, when they are paid for it. A little stringency like penalties for the failures, not sparing even the superiors, would certainly streamline the systems.This is the dark side,where achievements are personalised but failures are institutionalised.

May 13, 2007 8:21 AM  
Blogger Brijesh said...

rathi aunty,
Good observations

May 14, 2007 8:52 PM  
Blogger Fobbin said...

Yoou have great blog going!

May 16, 2007 5:07 AM  
Blogger Brijesh said...


May 20, 2007 5:20 PM  
Blogger Abhilash said...

Intersting the way you look at the issues

June 04, 2007 7:51 PM  
Blogger Brijesh said...

Welcome to my blog! Hope you appreciate the way I see various issues.

June 09, 2007 1:31 AM  

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