SRINAGAR: The closure of OPDs in Covid designated hospitals has left in the lurch patients who need regular check-ups for chronic ailments. Patients suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular problems have not seen their doctor for two-and-a-half months now, since the Covid lockdown began on March 22.
Khateeja, a 70-year-old patient with diabetes, is one of thousands of patients who have not seen their regular doctor since the lockdown began. She was a regular at JLNM Hospital, which nowadays is functioning as a special Covid hospital. According to the Superintendent of JLNM, Dr Zakir, all the doctors have been put on duty to see Covid patients, while regular OPD patients are being directed to other hospitals, including SKIMS.
Khateeja has been consuming the same medicine for the past two-and-a-half months which otherwise used to be changed periodically. There is no knowing when she will be able to see her regular doctor at the JLNM hospital.
“It is taking a toll on my health. I get panic attacks, and then I immediately need to go to a hospital,” she told Kashmir Reader.
A resident of Lal Chowk, Khateeja is reluctant to visit the nearby SMHS hospital where doctors can see her in the emergency wing. Her fears stem from the fact that doctors there are residents, while she gets treated by a senior consultant at the JLNM hospital.
The SMHS hospital has not resumed OPD operations except in ophthalmology and ENT departments. Its Medical Superintendent, Dr Nazir Chowdhary, told Kashmir Reader that the hospital does see all the patients in the emergency ward of the hospital, but the OPD will be resumed when the rush of patients picks up.
At present, the number of OPD patients has dropped due to the emergency response to Covid-19. Dr Nazir said that of the 4,000 patients seen on average in the OPD daily, only 800 visit, more than half of whom are emergency cases. However, this drop in patient influx is not because patients are doing well at home, but because they don’t visit hospital either due to fear or due to unavailability of a specialist. For patients like Khateeja, Dr Nazir said, they can visit SMHS, and if the need arises, they can be referred to some super-speciality hospital.
But it is easier said than done. A patient who earlier used to get a treatment at one place now has to visit two hospitals to get treatment from an experienced doctor. This may in some cases be fatal, said a senior doctor, on the condition of the anonymity, because the process can delay the treatment which may be needed urgently.
Medical Superintendent of the Super-Speciality Hospital in Srinagar, Dr Shabir, said that though they never shut the OPD, the influx of patents is much less since the Covid lockdown began.