Published on May 22, 2021

AHMEDABAD: Anxiety kept Sandip Mehta hooked to the phone through Friday on the Civil Hospital campus. “My 68-year-old mother is admitted with a severe infection of mucormycosis. Her palate has been destroyed,” said a distraught Mehta, a Bhavnagar resident. “She has started losing her vision and the fungus is now spreading to her head.”

Mehta went on to say: “Doctors have warned us that if the infection reaches her brain, death is inevitable.”

Mehta said his mother has received only two injections over past10 days as there is a severe scarcity of drugs. “Doctors say more critical patients are being catered to first. She will get injections when her turn comes,” Mehta said. “We are exploring every resource possible. The authorities claim no injections are available. Should I let my mother die for want of medicines?”

The abject despair is shared by 1,000-odd patients of the lethal fungal infection, mucormycosis, in Gujarat who await the Amphotericin B injections. The injections offer the only shot at survival.

Principal health secretary Jayanti Ravi said that the government has given the available stock of injections to nodal centres. “We are receiving less stock from the Centre compared to the demand,” Ravi said.

The state government, however, failed to deliver drugs on Day-1 itself of the state-managed injection distribution drive for mucormycosis treatment. In Ahmedabad, not a single injection was dispensed to private hospitals from LG Hospital (for city areas) or Sola Civil Hospital (for district areas) on Thursday, authorities confirmed to TOI.

The state government had told the Gujarat high court on Monday that it had procured most of the injections from the market. It also submitted that “it had placed an order for 1,14,430 vials of Amphotericin B injections and it has got sufficient stock as of now”. The court had expressed its reservations and had told the government to create a mechanism for the distribution of injections. “How will hospitals deal with it since you have procured everything? How should they treat their patients?” the court had questioned.

On Thursday, Gujarat had declared mucormycosis an epidemic but it is yet to declare the official figure of patients and the death toll. Government officials offer mere ‘estimates’ even as conservative figures peg the number of active patients at about 1,000 and the cumulative mortality at 225-250.

The sheer lack of planning in managing the crisis was apparent from the fact that an AMC health officer was forced to send a worry-laden email to the government on Friday. The officer said the 1,200 injections provided to the civic authority were not enough even for the patients at AMC-run hospitals, let alone private hospitals.

Dr Bharat Gadhvi, the president of Ahmedabad Hospitals & Nursing Homes Association (AHNA), said that the acute shortage of medicines for mucormycosis will result in private hospitals turning away patients. “We are doing our best to manage the medicines, and we welcome the government’s move to centralize the supply,” Dr Gadhvi said. “But when we cannot assure the patients of injections the next day, how can we admit them?”

“Injections were not available at any of the centres designated by the government,” said Sushil Ratvani, whose father battled Covid and is now critical with MM at a private hospital.

(With Himanshu Kaushik and Kapil Dave)

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