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Manipur Internet Shutdown Hurting Patients: Doctors

Ravi Kaushal |
IDPD members who visited the state said that they could not help patients through telemedicine and train doctors in performing peritoneal dialysis and other skills.

New Delhi: Doctors affiliated with Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD) who visited Manipur feel that the Internet shutdown in the state is hurting patients immensely amid the ethnic conflict.

At a press conference held at the Press Club of India in the national capital on Monday, IDPD general secretary Shakeel Ur Rahmansaid that hill patients commute 150 km to Kohima and Dimapur in Nagaland and nearing cities in Assam to avail treatmentas the movement of goods and people between the Valley and hills is severely affected.

“Our team visited the relief camps at the Khuman Lamkpak Sports Complex hostel (Imphal district) and IT relief camps under Sapormeina PHC (Kangpokpi district) in hill areas. We could not carry medicines as our local contacts told us that the mistrust among communities would make the journey difficult,” he said.

The ordeal of patients increases due to the Internet shutdown, said Rahman, a paediatrician by profession.

“We can help patients through telemedicine and train doctors in performing peritoneal dialysis (for renal failure) and other skills, like usingAMBU bags in cases of Respiratory Distress Syndrome among children,and counselmothers on breastfeeding. The shutdown has ended such possibilities,” he said.

“We also found the referral systems for seriouspatients at the relief camps in hilly areas unsatisfactory. It was beyond shock to find that the Kangpokpi District Hospital has neither an operation theatre nor a blood storage facility,” he added.

Besides, the state has “an acute shortage of specialists, other doctors and health workers. A vast majority of specialists doctors and all the medical colleges are in the Imphal district (three medical colleges) and Churachandpur district (one medical college)”.

Referring to the absence of vaccination among children, Rahman said that there is no special vaccination drive against measles. “Measles vaccine immunisation drive in children above nine months along with Vitamin A oral suspension is imperative for relief camps, according to the Sphere Project of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).”

IDPD president Arun Mitra, an ENT doctor, said that nodal officers for relief camps too corroborated the reports that no green leafy vegetables/eggs/meat/fish has ever been supplied to the people. Only the local community, civil society organisations and a few individuals sometimes provide vegetables.

“Anodal officer said that the people at the camps get one egg each per day every 13 days. Green vegetables are never supplied. Rice, dal, potatoes and cooking oil constitute the bulk of the ration. The absence of green leafy vegetables and animal proteins in children’s dietinthe last four months might lead to night blindness, which is caused by Vitamin A deficiency,” he said.

Mitra added that the condition of patients with chronic diseases like renal failure and diabetes is poor. “Two patients with kidney failure requested us for dialysis machines.”

Moreover, children get repeated nightmares. “Many request their parents to return home. The elderly are too anxious about the safety of their families,” he said.

Mitra demanded “robust referral systems after triage from primary health centres to higher relief centres within Manipur and neighbouring states at the earliest”.

“Restoring the Internet is a must to achieve this objective. Similarly, fabricated operation theatres should be made operational at the district and subdistrict levels immediately. Blood storage units should be set up around relief camps after cluster formation,” he further demanded.

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