Mr. Banerjee, who is now 70, had a pacemaker implanted in the year 2010. The battery of the pacemaker lasts for around 10 years and he was supposed to undergo a minor surgery for replacing the battery sometime in July 2020. His physician suggested to avoid stress and anxiety so that battery lasts longer and the surgery could get postponed to September when doctors are expecting the pandemic would ease out.
Ms. Singh is supposed to deliver her first child in the month of August. When she last saw her gynaecologist before the lockdown, she was detected with gestational diabetes. March onwards her doctor instructed her not to visit diagnostic centre for regular blood tests or USG, neither visit her, for that matter, until any emergency situation.
Ms. Awasthi, a cancer patient, was undergoing last few phases of chemotherapy after surgery when the lockdown was announced. With a feeble immune system as a side effect of the therapy, she had to run between hospitals as the hospitals were shutting down one after another when healthcare workers were getting infected.
The state of mind of these three people and their family members is unimaginable. Mr. Banerjee lives with his wife as his children are settled elsewhere. Unable to bear the stress, he collapsed one day around mid of May 2020. He was shifted to an ICCU and the battery of his pacemaker had to be replaced within few days, way before it was scheduled. Ms. Singh along with her husband are fighting to keep calm and keep her blood pressure and glucose level under control. They can only pray to god so that no complication arises. Ms. Awasthi, a fighter by nature, is now unsure of every tomorrow that comes. And these are just a few examples from my life. There are hundreds and thousands of such patients who needed diagnosis, treatment and care, but are denied or delayed due to obvious reasons. The entire healthcare system is focused on prevention, diagnosis, treatment and containment of COVID-19 infection. Additionally, the doctors also want to safeguard their regular patients from COVID-19 infection. Therefore, many such regular patients are likely to miss opportunities for timely diagnosis and treatment of their diseases.
Patients of chronic disease, being wary of going out, or facing difficulties in movement due to lockdown restriction might miss on treatment, ending up with long-term consequences. Many diseases like cancer and neurodegenerative disorders certainly require an early detection failing which their chances of recovery and survival will drop. Also, postponement of elective surgeries and procedures could have adverse impact on quality of life while the patients wait for the right time to get the treatment they need. There will be increased possibility of complications and worsening of disease, which will raise the overall burden of diseases of the country.
Moreover, the unavailability of several government set-ups that have been earmarked for COVID-19 has also limited the availability of emergency treatment of acute conditions for the less privileged whose only fall back for healthcare needs are public facilities. The inconceivable liability coming up on the healthcare industry of India and many other countries with ailing healthcare system cannot be assigned to the doctors and healthcare workers. The physicists, biologists, chemists and engineers should all come forward and innovate healthcare technologies that can support the doctors in diagnosis and treatment of these patients, thus decreasing the burden to some extent.
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