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Complacency should be nipped in the bud

The bottom seems to be falling out in our efforts to contain the outbreak of dengue fever in the border town of Phuentsholing.

Going by the day-to-day update of the cases since the first week of July this year, the matters are a far cry from well in hand.

While we continue to flounder with control measures, what with mosquito fogging and increased awareness and cleaning campaigns to fight the outbreak, positive cases in the town has touched more than 3,000.

And the number is expected to grow.

Quick response to the health emergencies that disease outbreaks call for is one thing; addressing them with the right interventions at the right time is a different thing altogether. In our case, we seem to have fallen short on both counts.

Even as the hospital was overwhelmed with increasing number of new cases very early in the days after the outbreak of the seasonal epidemic, the health ministry’s reaction to it was lax to the point of being apathetic.

There can hardly be a more approving way to describe the ministry’s art and part in responding to this scourge that is threatening to become unmanageable.

With just eight beds in the emergency unit, the patients are being treated in the hospital’s corridors. The scene is one of riotous confusion, of near-total bedlam. The more serious cases are being referred to hospital in Thimphu.

Bhutan’s health system has, over the years, seen a phenomenal growth both in terms of reach and sophistication. We can today boast about the state-of-the-art technology in our health facilities and up-to-the-minute medical know-how at our fingertips, and we are well on our way to achieving many of our significant national health goals.

But we are also confronted with serious challenges some of which are born of our deep-seated culture of taking everything rather too lightly.

At a time when we are faced with severe shortage of health professionals—many health centres outside the capital still do not have doctors—lack of proactive approach to addressing the emergence of new health challenges can be expensive for the nation.

Fear, panic and frustrations among the people have subsided and have taken on a new dimension of reaction to the disease—to just go about as if nothing’s happened. This is the real danger.

Complacency is also showing in the lack of collaboration and communication between the drungkhag office and the hospital. If this is allowed to continue further, the repercussions can be devastating.

Prime Minister has described the situation as alarming. We must meet the situation, now rather than later, with fitting attention and resolve.

Anything less is unacceptable.

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