Patients are being referred to take treatment in private hospitals
The surge in COVID- 19 cases across Kerala, with local transmission happening even inside hospitals has once again left non-COVID patients in the lurch in the Medical College Hospitals (MCHs) and other public sector tertiary care centres in the State.
As government medical college hospitals, which cater to a chunk of the population from the lower economic strata requiring tertiary care treatments, are getting filled with COVID patients, the care requirements of the non-COVID clientele here are either being shunted to private hospitals or getting postponed indefinitely.
Apart from the delays in treatment, outbreak of COVID-19 inside the non-COVID pool in hospitals has also put treatment on hold in many places with the entire clinical departments being shut down.
“COVID-19 has eclipsed everything else. The OP numbers of departments catering to chronic diseases have been restricted, surgeries are delayed, or postponed indefinitely. While we cannot ascertain the numbers, the delays have been affecting the treatment outcome as well as aggravating complications. We are totally helpless before the plight of many patients,” a senior doctor in Thiruvananthapuram Government Medical College Hospital says.
There are many doctors who feel strongly that the MCHs, which handle complex tertiary care treatments on a daily basis, should not have been made COVID hospitals.
The situation is no different in other government medical colleges in the State. Many doctors in key clinical departments like Nephrology, General Surgery, Gastroenterology and Urology, who see patients with malignancies or pre-malignant conditions say that they are quite concerned how the reduced access to treatment can affect the treatment outcomes.
“The beds for non-COVID have been cut, various departments have to share wards and operation theatres and the nursing staff has been diverted for duty in COVID ward. The waiting period for various surgeries have gone up indefinitely and it is not like our patients can afford to go to private hospitals,” the senior doctor adds.
Non-COVID patients are also being shunted to private hospitals. In Thiruvananthapuram, where the surge in local transmission of COVID-19 has seriously affected hospitals and health-care workers, the government has directed the MCH administration to shift most of its non-COVID care, except emergencies, to private health sector, “which are the State’s partners”, it is learnt.
Doctors say that this will compromise the care of hundreds of poor patients who cannot afford to go to private sector. Most of the private hospitals have been unhappy with the treatment package rates of Karunya Arogya Suraksha Padhati and it is likely that many poor patients will be either turned away or have to find funding elsewhere to finance their care.
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