Dialysis patients have a tough time amid Covid-19 curfew in Chandigarh
Dilkhush Yadav, 30, a kidney patient from Bihar is facing a trial by fire due to the lockdown. Suffering from end stage kidney disease, Yadav walks for over 2 hours to cover a 4-km stretch from Sarai in PGIMER to a private centre in Sector-38 A for dialysis. The distance can be covered in 8 minutes if he could pay rickshaw pullers ₹300 for the trip, to and fro.
Yadav is undergoing treatment at the nephrology department of Chandigarh’s Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) from the last one year. He said, “I leave the shelter home at 6:30 am to reach the dialysis centre by 8.30 am. Rickshaw pullers who earlier charged up to ₹20 are now asking ₹600 for a round trip. How can a poor man pay so much?”
Dialysis is a treatment that filters and purifies blood using a machine, which helps keep ones fluids and electrolytes in balance when kidneys can’t do their job. After the treatment at noon, he waited two hours, but when he could not find conveyance, he walked the way back home. He is advised dialysis thrice a week, but he is planning to reduce it to two times a week.
“I walk a little, then sit to catch my breath. I have no energy to walk all the way, especially in the heat. I have no choice, ” Yadav said, adding, “I once requested cops for a lift, but they left saying it wasn’t their job.”
In a similar case, Suresh Kumar, 28, from Bihar is undergoing treatment since 2014. He sold his land and spent about ₹25 lakh on his treatment. Six years on, he can barely afford his dialysis which costs ₹6,000 per week. So, when a rickshaw puller asked ₹200 for a 5 km stretch, he chose to walk, which took him three and a half hours to reach the centre.
“At 2pm, I started walking back to my sarai, but when I reached Sector 17, my blood pressure shot up. A rickshaw puller asked for ₹200, so I chose to walk,” said Kumar, who could barely speak.
Chandan Kumar, 29, shared a similar experience. Amid the curfew, he cant avail the ‘poor patient’ slip issued by PGIMER, because of which he has to spend double the money. His 5-year-old accompanies him to the centre, but now-a-days he walks alone as it takes 4 hours and is hot at noon. One day he had to plead with his brother to bring a vehicle or a wheelchair else he would have fainted on the road.
The curfew is a cause of misery not only to the poor but also for senior citizens. The former information commisioner of Punjab (RTI), Surinder Awasthi, said that reaching the hospital for dialysis itself was an uphill task. “If I get a driver, he is questioned by police. If I call an ambulance it never arrives. If we are suffering, I wonder at the plight of the poor,” the 70-year-old Mohali resident said.
Dr HS Kohli, head of nephrology department, PGIMER, said: “In Chandigarh, more than 230 kidney patients undergo dialysis everyday. The number is higher in Mohali.” He also said the Indian Society of Nephrology is compiling a report with regard to the discomfort causes to kidney patients because of the lockdown.
The city has 107 dialysis machines—75 in the private sector and 32 at government hospitals. He said a patient must undergo dialysis as advised, or they land up in emergency. “Some centres in the periphery are closed, but since they are not regulated, they cannot be compelled to stay open. This is also why so many patients are left harassed.”