Opinion: 'Non-COVID-19' Patients Are Disregarded Recipients Of Healthcare In Karnataka
It all started with a nationwide lockdown following the pandemic. Our renowned Victoria and Bowring hospitals in Karnataka with tertiary care facilities were converted into COVID-19 care centres. This led to complete side-tracking of non-COVID-19 patients’ care.
Medicines cure diseases, but only doctors can cure patients. The bond shared by a doctor and his patient is inexplicable. Despite such divine connection, there are times where a doctor won't be able to dedicate his best skills to his dear patient.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the non-COVID-19 patients were the only kind of patients we had. They were our only primary focus. Statistics state that there is a huge disparity in doctor to patient ratio in government hospitals.
Last year, the government had forcefully put doctors in a tough spot by completely ignoring non-COVID-19 patients. Let me explain in detail how doctors were pulled away from their duties and responsibilities of treating them.
It all started with a nationwide lockdown following the pandemic. During this period, our renowned Victoria and Bowring hospitals in Karnataka with tertiary care facilities were converted into COVID-19 care centres. The pandemic was all new then, and there was a lot of anxiety over the virulence, morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19 as there were no prior records available to understand the illness better.
This created a lot of commotion triggering all authorities and the government to think only about COVID-19 patients. The best tertiary care centres like Victoria and Bowring hospitals were stolen from their super-powers of providing speciality care to poor non-COVID-19 patients. This led to complete side-tracking of non-COVID-19 patients' care.
So who are non-COVID-19 patients?
These are people with illness but are negative for RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) test done for COVID-19. Around 70,000 outpatients' cases and around 4,000 in-patients were treated per month in Victoria hospital alone in 2019 (before the pandemic). Approximately 1,500 major operations and 3,000 minor operations were successfully done every month in the hospital. This constitutes around 3,000 outpatients cases per day and approximately 8,40,000 outpatient cases per year.
Redirecting to the problem perse, even as COVID-19 cases started decreasing last year, no decisions were made by the government to shift COVID-19 patients to elsewhere, where the facilities like beds, centralized oxygen, ventilators and required amount health care professionals were available.
COVID-19 patient care went on in the tertiary care centres for the whole year which had facilities of all specialIty care with the most modern modality approach which is highly required for non-COVID patient care. Hence continued COVID-19 patient care in these centres led to the wasting of hospital resources and skills of specialist doctors.
Non-COVID-19 patients who come to government hospitals for treatment earn moderate monthly income. Some might have even lost jobs after the pandemic hit the world. These patients when ill cannot afford treatment in private hospital facilities. The primary health care centres during the non-pandemic era used to treat emergency patients and then refer them to tertiary care centres like Victoria or Bowring hospital. But in the pandemic age, as the primary health care centres had no place to refer non-COVID-19 patients for tertiary care, they (patients) were forced to go to unaffordable private hospitals.
Not being able to get treatment at the time of need and later not being able to afford tertiary care in private hospitals, the non-COVID-19 patients have suffered enough.
Let me quote an example here: One of our doctors' family member met with a road accident last year. This patient sustained an injury to the abdominal viscera i.e. injury to internal abdominal organs. The patient didn't need any surgical intervention but was admitted to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for observation in one of the reputed private hospitals. The patient was in ICU for two days with no oxygen requirement or any surgical management and was discharged on the fourth day. On the day of discharge, total hospital charges came up to three lakh rupees. For the same management, the cost could have come up to just 5,000 rupees in Victoria or Bowring hospitals. Just imagine the economical burden on this patient's family. No patient should be made to choose between quality of health care and money to afford it. Now, imagine the plight of middle-class and poor families who rely completely on government hospitals for both primary and tertiary care.
There has been a huge increase of about 32℅ in non- COVID-19 deaths last year in Bangalore. The government can't substantiate this partial treatment of non-COVID-19 patients by stating pandemic as an excuse. What measures have our leaders taken in the last one year to avoid situations like this? Has the government built or strengthened any COVID-19 care centre with equipment needed or recruited a required number of health care workers? Their game plan is to still dump all COVID-19 patients in tertiary care centres like Victoria and Bowring hospitals.
Many may think where should COVID-19 patients get admitted then? Should they go to private hospitals? Before your mind wanders in such wild thoughts, let me tell you the infrastructure of government hospitals in Bangalore.
The following are the list of government hospitals in Bangalore,
1. Sri Jayadeva Institute of cardiovascular sciences and research
2. National institute of mental health and neurosciences
3. KIDWAI memorial institute of oncology
4. Victoria Hospital
5. Bowring and Lady Curzon hospital
6. Sanjay Gandhi institute of trauma and orthopaedics
7. Indira Gandhi institute of child health
8. Rajiv Gandhi institute of chest diseases
9. Jayanagara general hospital
10. K C general hospital
11. Government dental college
12. Government Ayurveda medical college
13. Anekal taluk hospital
14. Bangalore east taluk hospital
15. Bangalore north taluk hospital
16. Devanahalli taluk hospital
17. Doddaballapur taluk hospital
18. Hoskote taluk hospital
19. Nelamangala taluk hospital
20. Urban Public health care centres-80 in number
21. General hospitals under BBMP- 5 in number
22. Maternal care hospitals under BBMP- 10 in number
Following are 11 private medical colleges our great city also houses,
1. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar medical college
2. M. S. Ramaiah medical college
3. Vydehi Institute of medical sciences and research centre
4. Kempegowda institute of medical sciences
5. Akash medical college
6. Sapthagiri Institute of medical sciences and research centre
7. MVJ medical college and research hospital
8. Oxford medical college
9. Dayanand Sagar college of medical sciences
10. Raja Rajeshwari medical college and hospital
11. BGS Global Institute of medical sciences
Now that we know the complete strength of Bangalore hospitals, can't COVID-19 patients get the satisfactory health care they deserve in other hospitals without any monetary burden? Won't this make the life of non-COVID-19 patients better as they can seek care from hospitals like Victoria and Bowring hospitals?
This according to any sane person would be a better way to manage the crisis. All COVID-19 patients will get good treatment and care in government hospitals. Along with that, around 70,000 non-COVID-19 patients per month can be treated in Victoria and Bowring hospitals.
This is something our patients deserve, the right to decent health care. How much more longer is it going to be before our authorities and the government listen to the very sad yet genuine plight of non-COVID-19 patients?