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Non-COVID patients suffer prolonged agony amid lockdown in Delhi: Doctors

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New Delhi: From delayed cancer surgeries to teeth and eye issues, patients having non-COVID ailments in Delhi are suffering in agony in absence of adequate medical attention as hospitals are overburdened during the second wave of the pandemic and the city is under a lockdown, say doctors.

The restrictions imposed in the national capital on April 19 in the wake of the brutal second wave of the pandemic have hit the migrant labourers and the poor the hardest, but the interruption of non-COVID medical services has also added to the travails of many others.

Doctors at leading government and private hospitals say that as the majority of the machinery is currently engaged in fighting the deadly COVID-19 on a war-footing and movement restrictions are in place, non-COVID patients who need surgeries or have ENT issues and have to be examined physically and pregnant women are especially at a loss.

According to Dr Suresh Singh Naruka, senior consultant, ENT, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, “Non-COVID services have been largely impacted, but our hospital is trying to do best for such patients brought to the emergency”.

At the hospital, non-COVID emergency patients are treated as suspected cases of COVID-19 and intervention is immediately made, “otherwise, we could lose lives, if we wait for COVID test results”, he said.

“Once we had a case, where a person had swallowed an electric bulb, and every second was precious to save his life. So, we immediately started the procedure and saved him,” he said.

However, for cancer patients, the wait adds to the agony, as delayed surgeries mean prolonged pain.

“I have an old patient who is suffering from cancer, and he was to be operated in April, but then due to the COVID situation and lockdown in Delhi, his surgery got delayed by over a month.

“As a result, his cancer stage progressed in this period, and the accompanying suffering. It’s a difficult time for non-COVID patients too,” Naruka said.

The ENT doctor said, at the moment, he is trying to see patients over video calls or teleconsultation and call them to the hospital only if it’s unavoidable as bringing non-COVID patients to hospitals treating coronavirus patients poses a risk.

“My domain is ear, nose and throat, and in many cases we have to probe deeper inside nose and treat using specialised instruments, which can only be done through physical examination.

“So, it’s a handicap for both doctors and patients. But due to COVID fear, we tell patients to not visit hospitals if it can be managed via teleconsultation, after which we prescribe medicines as needed,” Naruka said.

Besides, cancer and ENT (ear, nose throat) patients, those people having old dental issues or who have recovered from COVOD, but having complications in teeth and gums due to lowered immunity, and with injury or ailments in eyes or skin are also suffering a lot of pain in the lockdown, doctors say.

Noted dentist Dr Anil Kohli, whose clinic in south Delhi has been serving people for over four decades, said, “We have to serve people, and so we have adjusted ourselves to the new normal”.

“The first wave last year caught us unawares and there was a lot of fear among both healthcare workers as well as patients who felt anxious stepping out of their homes, despite having an unbearable toothache,” he told PTI.

However, as the vaccination process got underway, all the staff got vaccinated and so they too feel safe while rendering services, Kohli said, adding, doctors wear PPE kits while examining patients.

“But, most of the dental clinics in Delhi are closed during the lockdown due to the COVID situation. Also, as we examine patients’ mouths, so the risk is very high. Therefore, not many feel comfortable attending to patients. But we are serving with reduced business hours,” he added.

A staff at Cloves Dental, a pan-India chain of clinics based in Delhi, said that only emergency cases are being seen at their clinics with “proper COVID safety precautions” like the use of hand sanitisers, social distancing, and avoiding aerosol-generating procedure.

“We are also providing teleconsultation and only if the case needs a clinic visit, we ask patients to come as there is COVID situation and lockdown restrictions,” she said.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday announced that the lockdown in Delhi will be extended till May end, and if cases continue to decline, the unlock process will be started in a phased manner.

Delhi has been registering a fall in daily cases in the last few days, and on Saturday 1,649 COVID-19 cases, the lowest since March 30, and 189 deaths were recorded, while the positivity rate dipped to 2.42 percent, as per the latest health bulletin.

Naruka feels, in pandemic time, pregnant women are suffering the most among the non-COVID patients, as they have to deal with so many health issues at once while ensuring the safety of the unborn child.

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