Maharashtra today invoked the stringent Epidemic Act in Pune and Satara districts to allow the state government to forcibly put swine flu patients under quarantine in government hospitals, a day after a 14-year-old Pune school girl became India's first victim of the influenza virus.
The decision in an attempt to to check the spread of swine flu came even as chief minister Ashok Chavan said there was negligence on part of the private Jahangir hospital which treated Reedal Shaikh, a class IX student of St Anne's High School in Pune.
Simultaneously, the state government issued show-cause notices to two private hospitals in Pune -- Jehangir and Ruby -- in connection with the girl's death. Throat swabs of the victim were tested for swinfe flu at the Ruby hospital.
"We have issued notices to Jehangir and Ruby hospitals, asking them to explain their position," public health minister Rajendra Shingane told reporters at Mantralaya here today.
"We expect their reply in a day or two," he said.
Chavan, who discussed the matter with senior health officials here described the incident as really unfortunate. "I feel there was total negligence on the part of those who admitted her to the hospital and negligence on part of the hospital," he said.
A senior official in Maharashtra health directorate Dr Pradeep Awate said that the Epidemic Diseases Act has been invoked to prevent spread of this air-borne A(H1N1) virus in the two districts (Pune and Panchgani) where 127 cases have been reported."
A total of 150 cases of swine flu have been reported in entire Maharashtra so far since April when the epidemic broke out in Mexico and US, he said.
"We are asking all the patients to get admitted in government hospitals and people should not go to private hospitals. Also, the private hospitals should not take any suspected patients as they do not have any right to do tests unless they take permission from the government," Awate said.
If the private hospitals do not follow this mandatory steps, severe action will be taken against them, Awate said.
Meanwhile, the family of the victim alleged gross medical negligence and said it would sue Jehangir and Ruby hospitals for damages.
Doctors at Jehangir hospital said they did their best to save the girl while those at Ruby said nothing illegal was done while testing for the swine flu.
Lawyer Asif Lampwala told reporters in Pune that they will take civil and criminal action against Jehangir and Ruby hospitals for gross negligence.
He alleged there was a nexus between these two hospitals as the blood sample of Reeda was sent for H1N1 virus test to Ruby Hospital instead of National Institute for Virology (NIV).
Ruby Hospital gave negative result in just one hour which was proved wrong subsequently, Lampwala, who spoke to media on behalf of Reeda's parents, said.
The family was told by doctors that there was nothing serious except for lung infection and there was no need for panic, he said.
Needa was admitted to Jehangir hospital on July 27 and Tamiflu tablet was administered to her only on July 31 when the second test done at NIV turned out to be positive, the lawyer said.
The girl's father Sajid Sheikh, mother Shireen Sheikh and aunt Ayesha Sheikh were present in the media briefing.
Reeda had never been to any foreign country, he said.