Routine health services run despite rising COVID-19 cases

Despite the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in the city, routine healthcare services are running full-fledged in most hospitals. However, patient volume for non-COVID services has dropped marginally at a few places.

Unlike in the previous waves of COVID-19 when non-COVID healthcare services were either suspended or slowed down, all routine healthcare services are continuing as usual in many hospitals — both in the government and private sector.

At Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH), all specialities were in full swing and around 100 to 120 surgeries, including electives, were performed a day, according to dean E. Theranirajan. “Prior to the third wave of COVID-19 infections, our outpatient inflow was around 15,000 to 17,000 a day. Now, we see a maximum of 9,000 to 10,000 outpatients a day. We have around 250 admissions a day,” he said.

Triaging patients diagnosed with COVID-19 has helped tertiary care centres like the RGGGH to a large extent. “We are admitting 30 to 40 patients with COVID-19 a day, mostly with moderate to severe symptoms. The majority of patients are in home isolation. So, we have been able to reserve resources. As of now, COVID-19 wards are functional on two floors, and we have a separate team of doctors, including postgraduates, contract medical officers and senior professors, for COVID-19 management. With this segregation in place, non-COVID services are going on as usual. The clear-cut guidelines for COVID-19 management have helped in managing both COVID-19 and non-COVID services,” he said.

As of now, 170 beds allocated for COVID-19 have been occupied, while there are 3,492 beds for non-COVID patients at the hospital, he added.

P. Balaji, dean of the Government Stanley Medical College Hospital, said all routine services were running as usual. “All procedures, including cardiac operations such as angioplasty and dialysis, are going on as usual. We have about 200 patients with COVID-19 as of now and are able to manage the situation. Maybe, if the numbers rise to 500 or 600, we may look at the essential services. But we have not gone to that stage. We have asked the heads of departments to decide on managing patients,” he said.

He added that precautionary measures were in place. While no COVID-19 testing is done on emergency patients, those scheduled to undergo elective procedures are subjected to RT-PCR testing. The vaccination status of patients is also checked, Dr. Balaji said.

At the Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital, outpatient department services are fully operational. “Priority is given for emergency surgeries. Not all electives have been suspended. Instead of two days a week, we have fixed a day a week for surgical specialities,” dean R. Shanthimalar said. The hospital’s outpatient inflow (non-COVID) is around 2,500 to 2,800, while inpatient numbers are in the range of 350 to 400. “The non-COVID inpatient admissions have reduced to only having sick patients who need proper care. We are insisting on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) such as masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene,” she said.

The situation was similar in private hospitals. Harish Manian, chief executive officer, MGM Healthcare, said there was only a marginal reduction in the number of outpatients at the hospital. The daily number has slightly reduced from around 600-700 to 500 now.

“Non-COVID healthcare services are running as usual as we have created a green channel for COVID-19, by having a separate flow for patients with COVID-19. Due to this segregation, all routine services such as OPD, health checks and operation theatres are functioning. Elective surgeries are being performed as well,” he said.

“We are yet to see how the peak will be. As there is no shutdown of travel in this wave, people are able to reach hospitals for routine care,” he added.

“Since we have seen two COVID-19 waves, we have all infrastructure in place. All our healthcare services are operational. We have a separate area for patients with COVID-19,” said Venkatachalam, director of medical services, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai.

“But the volume of patients, both outpatient and inpatient, have come down by 30% as we get patients from other States and many are avoiding travel. Similarly, procedures have reduced by 25%,” he added.

Though the infectivity rate is high in the current wave, the severity was less, he said, adding: “We have 10 to 15 admissions of COVID-19 patients a day. Most have co-morbidities,” he said.

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Printable version | May 25, 2022 6:09:26 am |