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Covid’s ‘other victims’: Delaying treatment is injurious to health

AJ VinayakTV Jayan Maitri Porecha Mangaluru/ New Delhi | Updated on July 27, 2020 Published on July 27, 2020

A blood-cancer survivor, 67-year-old Adviti* from Puttur taluk of Dakshina Kannada district has delayed her routine check-up with her oncologist in Mangaluru, for the last two months.

She needs to travel about 55 kms to meet her doctor. And given the increase in local Covid cases, she feels safer at home than go for a check-up.

But delaying seeing a doctor, for fear of Covid, is not advisable and can have life-threatening consequences.

Cardiologist Padmanabha Kamath lost 5-6 patients in two months as they preferred to stay home, fearing Covid. All were from Mangaluru and could have reached the hospital in five minutes.

“Covid will not kill you suddenly, but heart failure will. By the time they came to the hospital it was too late. These were all non-Covid deaths. Because of the Covid fear they paid a heavy price,” he said.

Patients call complaining of chest pain, breathlessness and cough. “This can be a sign of heart failure also. The moment you see these signs you have to go through Covid testing. With this fear, they remain isolated at home only,” he said.

Dialysis patients

Patients who undergo dialysis, though, know they cannot afford to miss a session and make the effort to get to a hospital.

The problem is with people just diagnosed with the disease and needing regular dialysis. They postpone coming to the hospital thinking they are alright and end up coming when they are very sick, observes Dr Balasubramanyiam R, Chief Nephrologist, Kauvery Hospital.

But 60-year-old ES Shreenivasan from Chennai, who had never missed a dialysis session, faced difficulties last month. The dialysis centre at a private hospital he went to was closed for 15 days for safety reasons. And he was turned down at two other private hospitals before getting admitted to SIMS hospital with great difficulty, he says.

Denial of treatment

In Karnataka, Covid added to the shortage of doctors, nurses, lab technicians, etc. In urban areas, patients use the tele-consulting options, but rural areas get neglected, say experts.

Raising the issue of non-Covid people dying due to denial of treatment and calling for action against the hospitals, Opposition leader Siddaramaiah tweeted “A pregnant woman, who was experiencing labour pain, was denied treatment by many hospitals in Bengaluru. She lost her newborn baby after delivering it in an autorickshaw.”

Septuagenarian Tapati Malik, in Kolkata, had a shoulder dislocation, mid-January. Post a surgery and rest, physiotherapy was started, but stopped once the lockdown began. Even after these services resumed recently, she has been advised not to visit, as the hospital was treating Covid patients.

In Delhi, 12-year-old visually impaired Vikas Kumar, a resident of Madanpur Khadar, developed an acute pain in his abdomen 15 days ago which was later diagnosed as severe liver disease. He was turned away from the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) for want of a ration card to get admitted in the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota for free treatment. “Due to the lockdown, my brother Vikas’ ration card is difficult to procure,” said Ajit Kumar, his brother.

Ashok Agarwal, on the committee to monitor EWS beds in the city, said that large Delhi government hospitals had been converted into dedicated Covid facilities which is why they were turning away non-Covid patients.

Roping in private hospitals

Health activists call for a list of non-Covid hospitals. The State government should rope in private hospitals to treat patients with other ailments and reimburse the hospital at a fixed rate, said Inayat Kakar, with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan.

Father George PA at Delhi’s Holy Family Hospital adds, many patients were staying away from the hospital, fearing Covid. HFH has dedicated nearly 200 of its 345 beds for Covid treatment.

Gujarat’s 56-year-old Madhu Sharma had a brain haemorrhage due to a sharp increase in her blood pressure and was rushed to a nearby multi-speciality hospital. Though she had a history of high BP, and had to check it regularly, she did not go to a neighbourhood clinic fearing Covid.

Ahmedabad’s noted Reconstructive and Burns surgeon, Dr Hemant Saraiya explains transportation disruptions and finances, as many have lost businesses or got a pay cut, are also factors.

“Already we have a limited spend on healthcare and infrastructure. Today, most of it is being consumed and occupied by Covid patients, leaving very little for the non-Covid patients,” he points out.

*name changed

With inputs from Narayanan V (Chennai), Anil Urs (Bengaluru),

Abhishek Law (Kolkata) and Rutam Vora (Gujarat)

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Published on July 27, 2020
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