SRINAGAR: Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday accused authorities at SK Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) of hushing up swine flu deaths and cases.
“That puts the whole population at risk of a deadly outbreak,” said DAK president and flu expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan in a statement. “While it is mandatory to report and inform public about these deaths and cases, health officials are concealing them.”
Dr Nisar said a middle-aged woman who was working as warden at Government Polytechnic College for Women died due to swine flu infection at SKIMS on November 1 and neither the family nor the college was informed about the cause of death. “The death certificate issued had no mention of swine flu,” he said, adding that it was only after the principal of the college uploaded a Facebook post that people came to know about it.
“The cover up continued until officials at SKIMS bowed to media pressure and disclosed the information,” he said. “The officials were aware about the implication of hiding it, yet they suppressed the information. This is not only unethical but criminal.”
DAK president said other four deaths were also made public by newspapers only with the help of their sources in the hospital. “Even the doctors and staff dealing with these patients are not informed about the positive cases. That means not only the vulnerable patients but the staff also are put at risk,” he said.
Dr Nisar said this season’s swine flu virus has mutated and is behaving unusually attacking healthier individuals. He said health authorities should have stepped up surveillance and made regular updates public. “But we have no idea about the number of flu cases as they are not reported leaving public ignorant of potentially deadly threat,” he said, adding, “It is unfortunate that health officials are downplaying the threat which is looming over.”
“In 2015 also, they concealed the cases that resulted in an outbreak and killed scores of patients. Timely reporting of flu cases is essential to prevent the spread of disease and save lives. That way people can take precautions and protect themselves and folks around them,” Dr Nisar said.