Curfew a trial by fire for critical patients, their families

Untrained family members have been left to cope with special needs of critical or bed-ridden patients, while others are unable to avail specialised medication
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Published on Apr 12, 2020 11:56 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | BySrishti Jaswal, Chandigarh

Navneet Kaur, a Sector-50 resident, said, “My father is bed-ridden with blood disorders and kidney and brain degeneration. When the curfew was announced, my world turned upside down as his medical attendant couldn’t come home anymore. Trivial matters trigger him into a frenzy. He screams when he is hungry or cold.”

Harmohinder Kaur, 82, has polio since birth. Her son, Navdeep Singh, a Sector-15 resident said, “We help feed her, bathe her, change her diapers. It’s very challenging in the absence of a nurse. ”

These are just a few cases, wherein untrained family members have been left to cope with the special needs of critical or bed-ridden patients, after the lockdown deprived them of the appropriate care given by medical attendants. Unable to avail prescriptions or specialised medication after the curfew was imposed, patients and their families are at their wits end.

A Sector-47 resident, whose 17-year-old son is suffering from cerebral palsy, said, “His medicines are not available with the pharmacy in the vicinity. I have begged the police to allow me to get his medicines in the last few days. Now, we also have no access to physiotherapy for him.”

For others less fortunate, the curfew sounded a death knell. A Sector-38 resident lost his 98-year-old father a few days ago. “After his male nurse could not come home, my father’s condition worsened within days and he passed away,” he said. Another sales representative is worried about his bed-ridden 83-year-old father and is struggling to get passes for his attendants.

Those who rely on regular prescriptions are in a fix, too. GS Uberoi, 82, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016 and is on medication since. Amid the lockdown, he says getting medical aid is a struggle after his appointments with doctors got cancelled.

The issue does not stop at availing movement passes, as a lack of co-ordination between states offers another hurdle. “After much pleading we got a curfew pass from Chandigarh, only to find out that we need permission from Punjab as well, as the caretaker lives in Kharar. And now, we will have to get it renewed after April 14,” said Navneet Kaur.

Arun Kumar Gupta, UT health secretary, said, “We cannot grant curfew passes to caretakers for everyday travel because that defeats the purpose of the curfew. If some body is in dire need of an attendant, they can always have them stay at their home with the patient. We can issue passes for one-time travel.”

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The 65-year-old wife of 73-year-old MK Jain, Madhu suffers severe pain in her hand. After being diagnosed with a skeletal deformity, her surgery was scheduled in the Government Multi-Specialty Hospital- Sector 16 on March 23. However, due to the lockdown, doctors refused to take up her case.

After the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Chandigarh, OPDs in five government hospitals including the PGIMER were closed and the scheduled surgeries were cancelled.

Only emergency wards have been kept open at PGIMER, GMSH-16, Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) Sector 32, Manimajra Civil Hospital, Civil Hospital in Sector 45 and the Civil Hospital in Sector 22, while certain departments are available for tele-consultation.

A PGIMER doctor said they have been given instructions to conduct surgeries and treatment only in case of life saving situations.

“We request everyone to not visit the emergency ward unless it’s crucial because patients suffering critical illness will be far more susceptible to the virus and it will be far more difficult to save the patient,” he said.

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