KOCHI: The fear of Covid seems to have seeped into the very veins of our healthcare system. With cases surging and even medics in hospitals contracting the dreaded virus, instances are rising of people being turned away or remaining unattended for fear of infection even when they are caught in accidents and other emergencies.
Kerala has seen two cases over the past few days where hospital authorities allegedly delayed treatment. On July 28, Vijayan —a security guard at an apartment complex in Aluva — lost his life after the district hospital authorities in Aluva failed to provide prompt treatment. Vijayan was not even shifted from the ambulance, citing several reasons. However, the hospital authorities attributed the delay to requirements under the Covid protocol.
On Sunday, the parents and relatives of a three-year-old boy from Kadungallur who died after swallowing a coin also alleged that they were denied proper treatment despite visiting three government hospitals.
Amid the Covid spread, the state government has advised doctors and other staff stationed at emergency wings to adopt safety measures while attending to cases like accidents or heart attacks.
“The health department has issued guidelines stipulating that staff and doctors wear PPE while attending to patients. Considering the state of the patient, the urgency of the treatment is the doctor’s prerogative. An antigen test can rule out or confirm Covid within half an hour, and treatment can be provided without fear,” said a health official.
To ensure that treatment is not denied to patients brought in for urgent medical care, the very protocol for hospitals needs to be viewed through an educated lens, experts said.“The shortage of staff in many departments in hospitals is a grave issue as Covid cases are reported among healthcare staff,” said Monu Varghese, a pulmonologist in Kochi.
“If doctors in departments like emergency, cardiology, neurology and trauma care are not sensitised and prepared with safety gear, then lives are likely to be lost.”Dr Anup R Warrier, an infectious diseases specialist with Aster Medcity, Kochi, said patients can be moved to wards or ICU after confirmation of the Covid status through antigen testing.
“All emergency staff have to be in full PPE so that immediate life-saving interventions can be provided safely. Operating rooms and cardiac cath labs and radiology units must follow the Covid protocol to ensure all patients, even those who are not ruled out for Covid, are managed well. The safety of staff and other patients can be ensured by using segregated pathways and PPE,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Sheikh Ansari, who specialises in accident and emergency care, said many emergency illnesses are time-dependent.
“More the delay in treatment, more the damage to organs. The best results are obtained when a defined set of interventions are done as early as possible. While one cannot rule out risk in the emergency department, we cannot take the risk of ruling out Covid in a patient without testing and then put the entire hospital at risk,” he said.