FAISALABAD: At a time when the health department is yet to come up with a comprehensive strategy to bring reforms in the healthcare system in Punjab, gastroenteritis, diarrhoea has hit the province hard.

As per official record of the health department, the number of gastro and diarrhea patients reached 210,954 in the government-run hospitals, including 74,337 cases in Lahore since January 1, 2017. Moreover, the death toll due to the disease is not being willfully recorded in the hospitals in a bid to minimise the havoc in the province.

While speaking to The Express Tribune, a senior health department official, requesting anonymity, said, “To make matters worse, the statistics compiled by the provincial headquarter did not include the figures of those patients who are visiting private hospitals, clinics and health centres in large numbers.” He added, “If all data is included, the number of patients might be thrice the current figures.”

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Although the government-run hospitals are crowded with gastroenteritis and diarrhea patients but the functionaries of the Punjab health department are hesitant to declare the outbreak officially.

The official record of the health department revealed at least 193,117  diarrhea acute patients were admitted in the government owned hospitals in Faisalabad, Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi, Attock, Bahawalpur, Chakwal, Gujranwala, Hafizabad, Jhelum, Qasoor, Khanewal, Khushab, Layyah, Mandi Bahauddin, Narowal, Okara, Pakpattan, Sahiwal, Sargodha, Sheikhupra, Toba Tek Singh, Vehari, Bhakkar, Chiniot, Dera Ghazi Khan, Jhang, Lodran Mianwali, Muzaffargarh, and Nankana Sahib from January 1 to  May 11, 2017.

The maximum number of patients suffering from the disease were admitted in Lahore which touched the figure of 74,337, followed by 12,326 in Rawalpindi, 10,163 in DG Khan, 8,306 in Sheikhupura, 7,294 in Multan, 6,859 in Bahawalpur and 6,113 in Faisalabad.

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Likewise, 16,910 acute watery diarrhea patients were admitted in government hospitals in Punjab. Of them, 11,577 such patients were registered in Lahore followed by 1,563 in Faisalabad and 1,310 in Okara.

Similarly, 927 bloody diarrhea patients were admitted during the same period and the maximum number of patients were recorded in Faisalabad with 521 patients followed by 71 in Bahawalpur while only one such patient was registered in Lahore.

A senior officer told The Express Tribune that an estimated 1,610 gastro patients were being admitted on daily basis in public sector hospitals. He said majority of the patients, who contracted diarrhea, were children under five years of age.

The medical experts opined the use of hygienic food, fruits, drinks and contaminated water was the major cause of such infectious disease. They said majority of the patients fall victim to such diseases due to extreme hot weather conditions and use of substandard water.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2017.