LAHORE - Provincial Disease Surveillance and Response Unit - that was conceived two years back - still remains on papers only while the deaths caused by diphtheria and pneumonia have reached epidemic proportions due to delayed response from the health managers.

Health experts say that timely warning of such epidemics, the primary objective behind establishment of this unit, could have saved many lives.

National Steering Committee on Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (FELTP), met on January 16 to 17, and after extensive deliberations decided to set up provincial units of disease surveillance and response to watch the incidence of disease outbreak at district level and issue alert before it reaches an alarming level.

As the mechanism did not exist, the health managers responded to the diphtheria outbreak but not before it taking dozens of precious lives. Though the government has so far confirmed deaths of 51 children from five to 12 years of age, doctors believe that the actual death toll could be in hundreds.

They believe that the worst situation could have been avoided if there was proper disease surveillance, coordination between province and districts and with donor agencies like World Health Organization (WHO), timely warning and import of Anti Diphtheria Serum (ADS), only cure for the fatal disease.

“Directorate General Health Services timely responded to the FELTP decision and notified establishment of the unit on January 27, 2014. But this unit has not been made functional even after lapse of two years”, said an official who wanted not to be quoted.

Disease Surveillance and Response Unit was envisioned as focus of activity working under the supervision of DG Health and his nominated officers after six month classroom training in Islamabad.

The objectives of the unit were to strengthen effective use of surveillance information for timely and effective public health decision making and action, assist the Health Department to determine endemic levels of illness and establish outbreak alerts and response system.

It was mandated to coordinate with Executive District Officers (EDOs) Health for timely verification and response to disease outbreaks, conduct field epidemiological investigations of outbreaks when required and liaise with FELTP for technical support in investigation and response.

elected: Ex-principal Postgraduate Medical Institute (PGMI) Prof Anjum Habib Vohra has been elected as President Pakistan Society of Neuro Surgeons.

Prof Mumtaz Ali has been elected as Senior Vice President; Prof Raja Riaz Ahmed, Vice President; Prof Raz Muhammad Kakar, General Secretary; Prof Anwar Ch, Finance Secretary; Dr Amir Dawood, Joint Secretary; and Dr Amir Aziz Information Secretary.

The sitting principal, Prof Khalid Mahmood has congratulated the newly elected office bearers and hoped that they would work for the welfare of the community. He also urged the office bearers to encourage young doctors to improve their knowledge and expertise for better treatment of the ailing humanity.