NEW DELHI (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) - The Delhi government has ordered an extra 1,000 beds for public hospitals to treat dengue patients following the suicide of a couple whose 7-year-old son died after allegedly being refused treatment at a number of city hospitals.
The Indian capital's Health Minister Satyendra Jain said on Sunday that authorities would take immediate steps to curb the spread of dengue and boost treatment for patients.
There have been 1,259 dengue cases recorded in the city so far this year - the highest number since 2009 when 1,512 cases were reported. Doctors say the number of cases of the mosquito-borne viral infection are likely to be much higher as many go unreported.
Because of the spike in dengue cases, Jain ordered 1,000 new beds to be purchased by the middle of this week.
"If hospitals lack space, the new beds can be kept in lobbies or wherever space is available," he told journalists.
"Hospitals have also been asked to postpone surgeries by one month, so that beds could be freed for dengue patients... our first priority is to treat such (dengue) patients." The move follows the suicides of Laxmichandra and Babita Rout, who jumped from a four-storey building in south Delhi on Sept 10, after their son Avinash died of dengue two days before.
In a one-page suicide note, the couple said they decided to end their lives after the death of Avinash, who was their only child, police said.
The boy's medical reports showed he was referred to five prominent private hospitals in the capital, which allegedly refused to admit him. He was eventually admitted to another private hospital, but died shortly afterwards.
A government official, who did not wish to be named, said the city's health department has asked the hospitals to explain why they had refused to treat Avinash, despite an Aug. 28 notice to all hospitals not to deny admission to any dengue patient on account of a lack of beds.
India's federal Minister for Health J.P. Nadda said he had ordered an investigation into the case, which hit newspaper and television headlines over the weekend. "Ordered inquiry into incident reported in media involving death of child in Delhi due to dengue & suicide by parents. Guilty won't be spared," Nadda wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
Dengue is common in India and the number of cases generally peaks in October, after the end of the monsoon rains.
The virus, which occurs mainly in the tropics, causes symptoms such as fever, severe headache, joint and muscular pains, vomiting and rashes. If untreated, it can cause death.