Cancer patients worried as hospitals focus on COVID-19

They are finding it difficult to reach hospitals due to the absence of public transport

Many people who have conditions that need frequent and regular medical support, like dialysis, and cancer patients are struggling to cope in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. In some cases, hospitals are asking them to defer their treatment in an attempt to reduce their risk. There have also been reports of patients finding it difficult to reach hospitals due to the absence of public transport.

Cancer patients at the Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, who have been asked to postpone their visit by one or two weeks, are worried. The hospital is also advising patients who do not need emergency care to leave the premises.

The director of the hospital, Dr. C. Ramachandra, in a release issued recently, said that patients suffering from cancer have low immunity. “If these patients get infected with the coronavirus, it will be dangerous to their life. More so for patients receiving radiotherapy and chemotherapy, whose immunity will be further compromised. Delaying chemotherapy and radiotherapy for one or two weeks will not harm them. However, those developing breathing difficulty, bleeding, abdominal distension, difficulty in swallowing and severe pain, should visit the hospital and get examined by doctors.”

On an average, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 1,500 patients would come to the hospital every day. Dr. C. Ramachandra told The Hindu that the number of patients who visit the hospital has been reduced to around 150.

However, many cancer patients currently at the hospital are concerned that they will develop complications if they go home.

Najmul Hossain Laskar, who lost his four-year-old son to cancer on April 6, alleged that the authorities at Kidwai refused to admit his child. “I went thrice to the hospital on April 4, 5 and 6. They refused to admit him and stated that only emergency cases will be admitted. Coronavirus is a big problem, but what about cancer patients?” he said.

Kidwai has set up an isolation unit of 150 beds for COVID-19 patients, and there are fears that it would pose a risk to cancer patients who would be treated there later as they already have low immunity.

Blood banks running low

It’s not just cancer patients who are worried. People suffering from thalassemia, and conditions that require blood transfusion, are noticing that blood banks are not receiving sufficient donations with the lockdown.

While blood banks usually stock around 4,000 units per month, they now have barely 100 units, said a press release by Naavu Bharateeyaru, a volunteer group.

The release also stated that although the government has announced that HIV patients can collect their ART drugs for three months from health facilities, many are unable to travel to their health facilities during the lockdown.

Officials of the health and family welfare department said that they have given permission to 200 private cab operators to provide transportation for non-COVID 19 medical services.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 4:28:48 PM |

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