Even as government hospitals have begun routine procedures and out patient services, with bulk of doctors still on Covid-19 duty, very few are available to deal with other aliments, forcing patients to continue their wait for elective surgery. Some patients are also being forced to seek private treatment in the absence of government facilities.
It was at the onset of the pandemic that Aarti Kamble was recommended hysterectomy after she developed acute pain in the abdomen. She decided to wait, take medicines, and let the pandemic pass.
In July, when government hospitals began routine out-patient services, Kamble visited JJ hospital only to be turned away. “They asked me to come after a month, they didn’t have enough anaesthetists,” she said.
On Friday, Kamble again experienced acute pain and returned to JJ hospital where she was admitted for an emergency procedure. She has tested Covid-19 negative, but three days since, the surgery is yet to take place.
“We have gynaecologists but anaesthetists are not available for routine procedures. Most are deputed on Covid-19 duty. Only a few are posted for emergency surgeries,” said Dr Ashok Anand, head of the gynaecology department, which has been performing only caesarean procedures and normal deliveries apart from emergency surgeries since March.
Kamble said her condition has worsened in the last two months. “The sonography showed two knots in my uterus, earlier there was just one.”
In St George’s hospital, where an exclusive sex realignment facility was set up in 2017, the wait list of transgenders and gender dysphoria patients wanting to undergo surgery is growing.
“St George’s has become a Covid centre, so all those surgeries have been put on hold,” said assistant professor Dr Rajat Kapoor. Only emergency plastic surgery procedures are being taken up now.
While JJ hospital handles all non-Covid work of St George’s hospital, sex realignment procedures are yet to resume. An orthopaedic surgeon in JJ hospital said that last week, he had to wait for four days to get an anaesthetist for an emergency spine procedure.
In July, government hospitals had resumed normal OPDs and reopened non-Covid departments after four months of lull. But a shortage of manpower and equipment has hampered non-Covid admissions. In Nair and Sion hospitals, all intensive care units (ICU) have been reserved for Covid-19 patients. In Dr R N Cooper hospital, dialysis beds too have been kept aside for Covid-19 patients. Those suffering from other ailments have no option but to seek private care.
Arun Soneji has spent over Rs 5 lakh so far on his sister Bina Soneji. Bina (43), who suffers from brain haemorrhage, paralysis and requires dialysis, has been hospitalised thrice in the last two months.
As she remains admitted in Shree Ganesha Multispecialty hospital’s ICU, the family has run out of money. “A month ago, she was infected with Covid-19. I spent Rs 1.8 lakh on her treatment. Then she suffered complications during dialysis. Again, I spent Rs 1.8 lakh. Now she has brain haemorrhage… the bill has crossed Rs 1.2 lakh,” Arun said.
As the family inquired with Nair, Sion and Cooper hospitals, all three either had no ICU or dialysis beds available for non-Covid patients. The family has now started borrowing money for her treatment.
Dr R N Bharmal, Dean of Nair hospital, said they are yet to begin neurosurgery procedures. “We have opened OPDs, but it will take another month to perform neurosurgery” he said.
R N Cooper hospital Dean Dr Pinakin Gujjar said, “Our dialysis machines are in Seven Hills hospitals for the use of Covid-19 patients. We also don’t have neurosurgery facility right now.”
KEM hospital has around 500 Covid-19 patients and 450 suffering from other ailments. Daily, the hospital sees OPD visits by around 2,000 patients – a drop from 8,000 before the lockdown was imposed. “We are doing all emergency procedures, be it a Covid or non-Covid patient. But elective surgeries will take time to resume,” Dean Dr Hemant Deshmukh said.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani has instructed Cooper hospital to keep aside only two floors for Covid-19 patients. In Nair hospital, the OPD building has been converted to admit only non-Covid patients, he added. “We are gradually downgrading Covid facility in tertiary hospitals. This week, we will sanitise Covid-19 wards, and keep them empty for two days so that subsequently we can reopen it for other patients. We have to be cautious and ensure there is no infection risk,” he said.
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