Non-Covid patients in Noida suffer from delayed treatments
Kaushambi resident Vijay Prakash Mathur, 77, was scheduled for a brain tumour removal surgery in April this year. But when three members of his family contracted Covid-19, it was postponed.
It took a month for the family to recover from the viral disease, but by then, the tumour had grown.
On May 21, Mathur became unresponsive and had to be admitted to an ICU with a ventilator.
“Doctors now say the surgery is no longer an option. Had he been operated on in April itself, this wouldn’t have happened. Now, his survival chances are slim,” said Abhimanyu, his son.
The pandemic, especially its second wave from April, has forced many non-Covid patients to postpone their treatment owing to the fear of catching the disease.
Some of these treatments include chemotherapy for cancer.
“Patients do not want to step into a hospital. Yes, there are some cases where Covid cases in the family have also led to delaying of medical procedures. In such a situation, diseases such as cancer can progress after which the treatment and procedures become complicated,” said Dr Shubham Garg, senior consultant, surgical oncology at Fortis Hospital, Noida. The doctor consults 30-35 cancer patients every week.
Dr. Arun Goel, senior director of oncology, Max Super Speciality Hospital in Vaishali, said that he advisedhis patients not to be afraid of coming to the hospital as the Covid wards were separate from the cancer wards.
“I tell them that the risk of delaying procedure like a chemotherapy will be harmful. However for some patients, there was no other option as their caregivers got Covid-19 so they could come for their scheduled session,” he said.
Patients who require a dialysis two to three times a week have also cut down on their visits.
“Many of our patients are from other districts as well. But the lockdown has been a deterrent. If patients do not take dialysis on time, it can lead to several complications like heavy breathing, nausea, vomiting and lack of appetite,” said Dr Puneet Gupta, head of nephrology at Sharda Hospital, Greater Noida. He added that currently the hospital conducts dialysis for 200 patients a month and also has 50-60 Covid patients requiring dialysis.
The curfew in Uttar Pradesh, in force from April 30, excludes patients who require critical care but the overarching fear of contracting the disease has overridden some of them.
At Max Hospital, Dr Manoj K. Singhal, senior director of nephrology and kidney transplantation, recalls the case of one such patient.
“He was 60 years old and required dialysis thrice a week as his kidneys had failed. He reduced it to one to two sessions a week against our advice. Within three weeks, his condition worsened, and he suddenly developed shortness of breath. As it was a peak Covid surge time, we could not arrange a bed for him in the emergency and he eventually passed away,” he said.
The unprecedented rise in the number of Covid patients has overburdened city hospitals. Most government and private hospitals in GB Nagar have been converted to Covid facilities.
“We are going ahead with the emergency surgeries but have asked patients seeking elective surgeries to delay. For some like dialysis, we are advising home-based setups, but a delay in critical cases like kidney ailment or cancer cases may lead to steady worsening of the condition or even death,” said Dr. Deepak Verma, Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad.
Dr Dheeraj Sharma, associate professor (paediatric cardiac surgery at SSPHPGTI) said congenital heart disease require surgery within six months to a year of birth. “This golden period too has been missed,” he said. “Last year we were supposed to operate on 105 babies. But the pandemic and the lockdown got in the way of many. By November, when we contacted these families, it turned out that some of these children had passed away.”
Even regular vaccinations have been affected.
“Hepatitis B1, Hepatitis B2, Haemophilus Influenzae Type B vaccinations that are required to be given within a year of birth. Not giving these will expose the child to these diseases and severely affect them and shorten their lives,” said Dr DK Gupta, CMD, Felix Hospital, Noida .
Blood banks ran dry during the period cutting off supply to hospitals that required them for emergency surgeries or for those patients who required routine blood transfusions.
“Usually, blood banks have enough stock as people donate every now and then and we keep holding blood donation camps as well. Blood is required often for surgeries, for pregnant women and new-borns as well. Thalassemia, leukaemia and aplastic anaemia patients also require regular blood transfusions. We tried to help, but many times we had to ask the patients to arrange a blood donor from their family,” said Dr Satyam Arora, associate professor (transfusion medicine) at Superspeciality Paediatric Hospital & Postgraduate Teaching Institute (SSPHPGTI), Noida. He added that the hospital had over 100 thalassemia patients a month.
HIV patients have to get a monthly anti-retroviral therapy (ART) kit from their registered centres to keep their immunity up.
Since the pandemic, these centres have been providing three months’ kits to their patients.
“This is so that HIV patients do not have to come to the centre every month. As their immune system is compromised, they are more susceptible to the coronavirus,” said Dr Sheel Varma, medical officer at one such centre at MMG District Hospital, Ghaziabad.
Home health care
The fear has pushed people suffering from various ailments to opt for home health care services instead of going to hospitals for treatment.
“We have seen a rise of 70% for homecare facilities such as tele-medicine, tele-consultation, X-ray, sample collection and physiotherapy. We have also seen an increasing trend of 40% enhanced demand of our home critical care services as many non-Covid patients wanted an ICU set up at home and treated there,” said Dr Shabnam Mir, Consultant Physician and Head of Clinical Services at Antara, a Max Group company specializing in senior care.
District authorities, meanwhile, said patients need not worry. “Non-covid patients should not delay treatment over Covid worries. At hospitals that treat both Covid and non-Covid patients, separate arrangements like designated floors, entries and exits are made, so chances of contracting the virus are minimised,” said Dr Deepak Ohri, chief medical officer, GB Nagar