Dengue hospital situation “stable”, despite high patient demand

Hospitals in the capital have said they continue to screen significant numbers of patients for dengue fever, yet claim that the situation remains “stable” as authorities raise fears that an ongoing outbreak of the virus may be more persistent than originally thought.

As officials today confirmed that a 41 year old man from Addu Atoll had become the eighth person to have died during the latest dengue outbreak, health care representatives in the capital have said that they remain “busy” dealing with cases and had not yet seen significant declines in patients coming through their doors suspected of contracting the virus.

After declaring this week that the current outbreak of the virus around Male’ and several islands was being treated as an “epidemic”, the government has since established a task force to try and coordinate its ministries, the military and NGOs in preventing further spreads of dengue. The task force was originally budgeted to run for seven days, by which time the situation was expected to be under control.

However, upon admitting yesterday that the suspected number of dengue cases in the country had slightly risen after a perceived fall in infection rates earlier during the week, a media spokesperson for the task force suggested that the operations were now likely to run beyond the original seven day time-frame.

Meanwhile, for hospitals on the front-line of dealing with the “epidemic,” the Clinic, a Male’-based private hospital, has said it has been busy collaborating with the task force in trying to identify infection cases.

A spokesperson for the Clinic, which begun offering free dengue fever screening services on Tuesday (July 5), said it was continuing to receive a steady number of patients looking for dengue testing and had been working to the emergency protocols recently imposed by the government.

“At the moment I don’t think we are seeing the number of patients [with suspected dengue] going down,” she said. “From the first day [of the screening service], we have received large number of pediatric enquiries regarding dengue infections among children, though adults are coming for testing now in large numbers.“

Panic fears

The Clinic spokesperson revealed that the medical centre remained concerned about the impact panic was having on the general public.  She said this this concern reflected the limited amount of knowledge about the symptoms and severity of dengue fever within Maldivian society as a whole.

“Trying to create knowledge [about dengue] among the public is one of the main challenges we are facing. People who may have symptoms are sometimes sitting at home and relaxing trying to overcome the fever, which means that some cases of the virus are being missed,” she said.

“Dengue fever has to be better managed by people. Members of the public with the virus need to take more fluids, but they are lacking awareness of this.”

The spokesperson added that the Clinic was currently working to put together a leaflet that she said would try and provide more details about the virus.  During the current panic over dengue infections, the Clinic spokesperson suggested that some members of the public were staying at home instead of coming to be checked.

Despite concerns that the public may begin inundating hospitals beyond their capacity as a result of panic over the virus, Cathy Waters, Chief Executive of Male’s Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) said that increased patient numbers were to be expected during an outbreak like that presently taking place in the country.

“We have seen a lot of children being bought in by relatives because of the virus. I think that some panic is to be expected as people are concerned about dengue, but the situation is definitely stable here at the hospital,” she said. “I think the message has got out about the virus and its symptoms and people are responding to this.”

In trying to treat patients found to be suffering from the effects of dengue, Waters said that the hospital had moved to adapt additional wards and services to dealing specifically on trying to deal with the ongoing dengue outbreak, yet she added that the overall situation was under control.

“At the moment we would describe the situation as relatively stable, but definitely very busy here,” said the hospital chief executive. “We have set up an additional fever clinic, which means people can be seen relatively quickly for testing and then be given the necessary treatment.”

Waters added that the current dengue situation had required the hospital to develop contingency plans to allow for the provision of increased bed capacity as well as bringing in additional nurses to cope with demand.

The hospital chief executive said that this had in certain cases meant that some surgeries had to be cancelled to accommodate dengue testing and treatment, a situation that would continue to be reviewed regularly to ensure patient demands were being met as best fitted the situation.

The government taskforce has said that it is expecting to address members of the media concerning the latest developments later this evening.

While pledging to support efforts to try and cut dengue infection rates in the country, opposition politicians have been critical of the speed by which the government has responded to the present outbreak.

Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef, Spokesperson for the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), saidthat he believed that the government had “bungled” their response to trying to control dengue fever.

“From what we have seen the government is just not doing enough. We don’t believe they have been willfully negligent, but there has been negligence in their approach [to dengue outbreak],” he claimed. “They have not responded fast enough, which could be inexperience on their part. But I think this will be a wake-up call for them to change policy in dealing with these type of situations.”