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The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones

Bungling reports add to confusion

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August 9, 2009

The second reported death from Mumbai after swine flu claimed its first victim in Pune was the big news in today’s papers. The reportage has left me wondering about the words of the Guardian’s legendary editor C.P. Scott: Comment is free but facts are sacred.

The Times of India says the victim was a 33-year-old Mumbai housewife Fehmida Panwala and then spells her surname in the second instance as Panwalla.

The Hindustan Times describes the second person dying of swine flu as 53-year-old Fahima Panwala.

Mail Today identifies the woman as 53-year-old Famida Paanwalla.

And by the time I am through with the third report I am left to choose between two disparate ages and three different ways to spell both her first and the second name. All the papers tell me that she had a history of severe diabetes and hypertension.

Then I move to the Indian Express, which agrees with The Times of India in establishing the age of the victim as 33. It does not though agree with any of the previous three sets of names and identifies the victim as Fehmida Zubin Patanwala.

Only the Express has a spot picture of relatives and friends waiting outside the house of the victim before the funeral procession. I am tempted to believe that Express has got the facts right as it has carried a detailed story quoting the doctor who treated her at Ruby Nursing Home in Jogeshwari before she was moved to Lilavati Hospital on Friday and then within hours to the government Kasturba Hospital, which is the designated centre in Mumbai for suspected swine flu patients.

‘Another bungling, another flu death’ is the headline of the very very bungled story of The Hindustan Times. When I turn to page 9, the continuation paragraph says and I quote: “Incidentally, 14-year-old Rida Sheikh, who died of swine flu in Pune on Monday, was also admitted to Pune’s Ruby Hospital before she was transferred to a government-run hospital.”

I can’t quite make out what is incidentally here and what exactly is meant by using the word also; was someone else also admitted to Pune’s Ruby Hospital; or is it that both victims went to a hospital and a nursing home that began with the name Ruby; or could it be that Ruby Nursing Home in Jogeshwari and Ruby Hospital in Pune are the same place. It could also mean that both the victims had gone to a place that began with the name Ruby before being transferred to a government hospital.

In reality though Reeda (that’s how everyone except HT has written her name) was never admitted to either Ruby Hospital or shifted to a government hospital.

Reeda died in a private hospital called Jehangir Hospital in Pune on Monday the 3rd of August; and Ruby Hall (Ruby Hospital) was where her sample was sent for testing with the report coming as negative. This was later proved wrong when the test was done for the virus at the government referral centre National Institute of Virology (NIV), nodal agency entrusted with H1N1 virus test. This is according to a report of Pune-based paper Sakaal Times.

Incidentally, precious time was lost in both cases before any test for swine flu was done; and by the time it was confirmed and the patients could be put on medication it was too late.

Written by Deepan Joshi

November 23, 2009 at 1:36 pm

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