With regular services shut, many hospitals turn away non-Covid patients
AMIT RAWAT, 30, NEEDS SPINAL SURGERY
Amit Rawat, 30, cannot sit or lie down because of an excruciating back pain. He was due to undergo a spinal surgery, which was scheduled to take place right before routine services at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) were stopped due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
“I have been under the care of neurosurgeons from AIIMS since August last year. I was advised a surgery and got a date for February. However, it was later deferred to March. But the lockdown was enforced by then and I could not get the surgery done,” Rawat told HT.
He received tele-consultation and was asked to continue taking the painkillers he had been prescribed.
But the pain worsened, and he was rushed to the AIIMS emergency department on May 2.
“The doctors there told me that I would not die if I did not get the surgery. While that may be the case, I am in so much pain. The medicines let me sleep only for half an hour before the pain gets unbearable again. And, the drug store nearby even refused to give me the medicines once saying that I had been on them for too long and it might affect my kidneys,” he said.
When he asked for a date for the surgery during another tele-consultation on Friday, he was told to come back to the neurosurgery department when the services resume.
“Routine services have been halted for the moment because of Covid-19. However, if someone has an acute problem, then they can always come to the hospital emergency and any required procedure will be done. However, we have to trust the opinion of the doctor, which might be different from the perception of the patient. The other option is to seek their doctor’s opinion via teleconsultation and if the doctor feels that they do need surgery urgently then they can always ask the patient to come to the hospital emergency,” said Dr DK Sharma, medical superintendent, AIIMS.
MEHFUZ ALI, 65, NEEDS DIALYSIS TWICE A WEEK
Mehfuz Ali, 65, is in kidney failure, and needs dialysis twice a week. The Laxmi Nagar resident went to Dr Ram Manohar Lohia hospital’s emergency department in desperation on May 2.
He hadn’t received dialysis in nine days because private hospitals where he used to go previously refused to perform the procedure without a Covid-19 report, because another patient in the hospital had tested positive.
“My brother took him to a hospital to get tested on April 24, but the sample collections for the day were over. The next day, he took him to RML hospital. You know how hard it is to travel during lockdown. We had to get an ambulance on both days, which cost us ₹4,000 in total. The sample was collected and they said the reports would be in by April 30, which means he would miss the April 28 dialysis session,” said Fouzia Raza, Ali’s daughter.
But the family did not get the Covid-19 report even on April 30, so they started enquiring at other private centres for dialysis. “No centre wanted to take in a new dialysis patient. They were saying every slot is full. One of the centres asked for our names, and then refused. I think they probably declined because we are Muslims,” Raza said. With no alternative, the family decided to go to RML’s emergency department, pleading with them to either give his report or admit him for dialysis on May 2.
“He was having breathing difficulties by then. Still, the hospital refused to admit him. Finally, in the evening we received his report, which showed he was Covid-negative, and took him to a private hospital in Patparganj for dialysis,” she said.
“We try to take in every patient who comes to our hospital. However, there are a limited number of beds or dialysis machines that we have. So, in case we are at capacity, we even try to reach out to other hospitals that can provide the required care to the patient,” said Smriti Tiwari, spokesperson from Dr Ram Manohar Lohia hospital.
SABEENA, 31, nine-months pregnant
Sabeena, a 31-year-old pregnant woman, travelled from Loni in Uttar Pradesh on May 3 for medical attention at a hospital near Jama Masjid. She was in pain and complained of blood spotting. “All her check-ups during the pregnancy had happened at that hospital, so we wanted to take her there despite the lockdown. However, when we reached Delhi, doctors told us that some people in the hospital had tested positive for Covid-19 and they could not admit her,” said Asim Ali, her husband.
They were asked to go to a hospital in Shahdara. “We had taken an auto from home, and it dropped us to the hospital, but left soon after. However, doctors there kept asking us to go back to the first hospital. We did not know what to do,” he said. He then contacted a volunteer with a local NGO, who took them to Lady Hardinge Medical College in his car.
Even there, the doctors said they could not admit her as she had not been undergoing her ante-natal check-ups with them. “It was only after the volunteer requested the doctors that they admitted her. By then, she was in a very bad condition,” Ali said. They had left home at 4pm and Sabina was admitted to a hospital only at 11.30pm.
“We do not deny admission to anyone, but yes there might be some delays when it comes to deliveries. This is because we have 91 beds in the ‘orange’ section where those suspected to have Covid-19 are admitted and all precautions such as doctors wearing PPE kits are taken. However, these beds are always at 100% capacity and we cannot admit more than one patient on each bed like it used to happen before because social distancing has to be maintained,” said Dr NN Mathur, director, Lady Hardinge Medical College.