In black fungus wards in Rajasthan, many end up losing vision amid injection shortage, rising patient numbers

Fifty-nine-year-old Hasina Bano lost vision in both her eyes within just a month.

Her hands latch on to her two sons, Mohammed Sajid and Oman Ansari, as they help her into a wheelchair inside the ward designated for mucormycosis patients at the government MBS hospital in Kota district.

Black fungus ho gaya tha inhe (She was diagnosed with black fungus). My mother had tested positive for Covid-19 at the end of April. She gradually tested negative but complained of pain in the face… Eventually, she lost vision in both her eyes,” says Ansari, who is still in disbelief over how fast the illness escalated.

“… Till now, in over 12 days, she could be administered only four injections of Amphotericin B due to shortage,” says Sajid.

Last month, Rajasthan declared mucormycosis an epidemic. Since then, cases have steadily increased in rural as well as urban areas. The state has designated more than 30 government and private hospitals for the treatment of mucormycosis.

According to data from the Rajasthan Medical Services Corporation Limited (RMSCL), the total cases in Rajasthan stand at 2,651 as of Saturday — the figure includes those which are suspected cases. Of this, 2,379 patients are presently under treatment across various hospitals in the state. Data shows that there have been 85 deaths from the fungal infection while 157 patients have been cured and 30 patients have left against medical advice.

“In my 20-year-long career, I had seen only around four cases of mucormycosis in the pre-Covid era, such was the rarity of this disease. But now, I am seeing 10-12 cases daily. Even for us doctors, what is very disappointing is that black fungus surgeries are not result oriented and the disease has high mortality rate,” says Dr Raj Kumar Jain, head of the ENT wing of MBS Hospital in Kota.

In Jaipur, around 15-20 surgeries of mucormycosis patients are taking place every day at the operation theatre situated on the third floor of the Charak Bhawan, inside the sprawling campus of the SMS Hospital. Doctors say, at times the operation theatre functions for 24 hours a day.

Kin of patients such as Manoj Sharma, whose mother is admitted at the MBS Hospital in Kota, say that they would go to private facilities but have come to government hospitals because Amphotericin B is not available in private hospitals.

Sharma says that even at the government hospital, there is an acute shortage of injections, with a person getting a maximum of two doses a day as against the requirement of 5-6 doses every day.

Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma said the state government has asked the Centre to allocate Amphotericin B injections in proportion to the case load in individual states, but the injections received are not adequate.

Officials from the Health Department say that in terms of the present mucormycosis cases, Rajasthan needs 6,000-7,000 thousand doses every day. “At present, we are facing huge shortage of Amphotericin B… Since May 11, Rajasthan was allocated 16,000 doses. We had received around 12,000 till now. Rajasthan is among the top 5 states nationally both in terms of number of cases and allocation. After several rounds of requests to the Government of India for increasing this quota, on Friday, 13,350 additional vials were allocated to us. Our total limit after this allocation is now 29,350 injections…” Alok Ranjan, MD, RMSCL, which is the state nodal agency for procurement of drugs, told The Sunday Express.

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