Non-covid patients have been going through an ordeal for nearly 10 months. On the one hand was the fear of exposure to coronavirus that kept many from seeking timely medical care, and on the other were the lockdown and the marshalling of healthcare resources towards combating Covid and attending to emergency cases. The large-scale disruptions in scheduled surgeries, follow-ups and therapies as also OPDs and non-emergency services have taken a toll on the patients suffering from chronic and other life-threatening ailments. The restrictions on movement of people and transport facilities denied many a poor patient, especially those from remote and far-flung villages, the much-needed tertiary care that is only available in big towns and cities.
Stories of their suffering have been regularly highlighted during the pandemic. The suspension of the Abohar-Jodhpur Express, also known as ‘Cancer Train’, spelt doom for many, mostly small farmers and their families of Punjab’s cotton belt, as they could not travel to Bikaner for further treatment. At the IGMC Cancer Hospital, Shimla, it is feared that the disease has progressed among 10 to 15 per cent patients, who could not visit the hospital because of the curbs. A report of the PGIMS, Rohtak, found that the lockdown resulted in poor blood sugar control among diabetes (Type 1) patients as diet and exercise were affected during the confinement period. Similarly, the condition of some renal failure patients on dialysis deteriorated. A study has shown that the lockdown will cost five to eight years of the gains in the fight against TB.
Such preventable diseases and deaths among a significant section of the people are a blot on our health system. With the health sector slowly opening up, it is again time for the health warriors to rise to the challenges and shift focus to this lot. The crisis arising from the neglect of needy patients highlights our ailing system. India’s health indicators are among the lowest in the world. More funds need to be injected into it so as to strengthen the hospitals with more doctors and better facilities.