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KARACHI, Aug 14: The health department has requested an allocation of special funds from the Sindh government for different initiatives the department has planned in the event of a dengue fever outbreak in the province.

Talking to Dawn recently, the Secretary of the Provincial Health Department, Shafiq A. Khoso, said that the high-ups were quite alert about dengue fever, cases of which have now started reporting to the hospitals of Karachi. He said the department wanted to attain a level of preparedness where the patients suffering from the mosquito-borne dengue fever and hemorrhagic fever could be attended to efficiently.

Provincial Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmad has already approved a proposal pertaining to a dengue outbreak plan and requirements of a sum of Rs20 million from the Sindh government, which would certainly ease the workings of the health department and reduce the sufferings of the dengue-affected people as well, the secretary added.

He said that the one-time grant – if received from the government – would be used towards provision of mega-platelet units to dengue positive patients and shifting of dengue patients to some focal hospital and their effective handling there, in addition to some awareness creation activities.

It is said that a cell separator purchased by the Sindh government about a year back for one of its hospitals in Karachi could not be made operational due to lack of funds.

The Sindh Government’s Qatar Hospital Karachi, the first recipient of the three cell-separator machines, which had been procured by the government at a cost of Rs3 million each over a period of one year for three government teaching hospitals, failed to start the machine and produce mega-platelet units mainly needed in the case of dengue-positive patients as it had no money to purchase empty platelet bags.

The health department, about nine months back, had also moved a summary for special allocations, envisaging purchase of empty mega-platelet bags in a good quantity, but failed to get any positive response.

It was in the last week of July last that Dr Sagheer Ahmad approved a proposal for utilization of the cell separator at another hospital, instead of the Qatar Hospital, and the machine in question was subsequently handed over to the Civil Hospital Karachi, with the hope that as it was a major teaching hospital, its mangers would be able to either allocate some funds out of their annual budget for making the machine functional or arrange the much-needed empty bags that cost Rs7,500 to Rs9,000 each through charity or donations from private concerns and NGOs.

A source in the hospital said that the machine had had a test run and the authorities were hopeful that they could meet any initial requirement of mega-platelet units for dengue affected patients admitted to the CHK’s dengue isolation ward.

The hospital authorities have decided to get support for the acquisition of the bags in question from the federal government’s Zakat funds received at the CHK, Poor Patients’ Society or re-appropriate some of the budget allocations meant for wards of the hospital, the source added.

The medical superintendent of CHK, Dr Saeed Kureshi, said that the hospital could manage the needed bags for the high-speed cell separator up to some extent, but it would definitely need special allocations if demands increased extraordinarily.

“I have already pointed out to the government that the CHK should be allocated a considerable amount for the bags to enable it to get 100-150 mega-unit bags for dengue season, in case of any massive dengue outbreak in the city,” the superintendent added.

In the meantime, the Patients’ Welfare Association at the CHK on Tuesday inaugurated a cell-separator unit that was lying with it unutilized for the last many months, claimed another source.

The association, which intended to use the machine for general blood banking, has also called for support towards the provision of mega-pints of platelets free of cost to Zakat deserving patients, it was further learnt.