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Shortage of specialist doctors at YCMH; orthopaedics, surgeons treat Covid patients

Most shocking, said doctors, is unavailability of chest and TB specialists or pulmonologists. The doctors said all serious Covid patients develop pneumonia and only a pulmonologist is expected to treat them. But YCMH does not have a single pulmonologist.

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Pune | August 3, 2020 12:37:30 am
Pune covid-19, pune covid deaths, pune hospitals doctor shortage, pune ycm hospital doctor shortage, indian express news The YCM hospital administration concedes there is shortage of specialist doctors to treat Covid patients. (Representational)

Of all the hospitals in Pimpri-Chinchwad, the civic-run YCM hospital, a dedicated Covid-19 hospital, has seen the highest number of deaths of coronavirus patients. Of the 350 deaths in various hospitals in Pimpri-Chinchwad in last four months, YCM hospital accounts for a staggering 240 deaths since April 10 when the first Covid death was reported. One of the prime reasons cited for the large number of deaths of Covid patients is the shortage of specialists required for treating them. Of all the specialists, pulmonologists, who play a significant role in treating and saving the lives of Covid patients, are “missing” from YCM hospital.

According to doctors at the hospital, in the absence of specialists, orthopaedics are also treating serious Covid patients. “I hardly have a clue how to deal with a coronavirus patient. Coronavirus requires attention, monitoring and treatment from specialists and experts… What has coronavirus got to do with orthopaedics,” asked an orthopaedic doctor. On one entire floor — fifth floor, orthopaedic doctors are struggling to take care of Covid patients.

Similarly, on sixth floor, surgeons are looking after critical Covid patients. “Our job is to perform surgeries. So far, we have hardly been called to perform surgeries… Coronavirus requires trained doctors and specialists…,” said a doctor. On fourth floor, paediatricians are looking after Covid patients, both children and adults.

Only on third floor, there are physicians, said doctors. The situation in two of the ICUs is worse. There is not a single intensivist, who are mandatory when patients are put on ventilator.

Most shocking, said doctors, is unavailability of chest and TB specialists or pulmonologists. The doctors said all serious Covid patients develop pneumonia and only a pulmonologist is expected to treat them. “But YCMH does not have a single pulmonologist. And that is why other doctors who have no expertise in dealing with pneumonia are struggling to treat Covid patients,” said a doctor.

The YCM hospital administration concedes there is shortage of specialist doctors to treat Covid patients. “I think we need at least 20 more specialists to treat serious Covid patients,” said Dr Rajendra Wable, dean of YCM Hospital and Medical College.

Dr Wable also conceded the hospital does not have a single chest and TB specialist. “Yes, we need at least four pulmonologists but currently do not have even one. All serious Covid patients have pneumonia. Initially, it is low key but after a few days, the symptoms become serious. The role of a pulmonologist is significant to treat such patients,” he said.

As for intensivists required in ICUs, Dr Wable said, “We have two. One holds a diploma not a degree but by virtue of his experience is able to manage. We need at least six more intensivists,” he said.

Similarly, Dr Wable said YCMH currently has 10 physicians. “Of these at least four have been detected with Covid. One is in charge of Department of Medicine. In all, we need 20 physicians for the entire hospital as they are key to treating coronavirus patients. We also need seven more paediatricians,” he said.

As for orthopaedic doctors or surgeons treating Covid patients, Dr Wable said, “All registered medical practitioners will have to treat Covid patients. No field should remain untouched. If a Covid patient has a fracture, an ortho will have to treat him. Similarly, we required surgeons to undertake at least three surgeries on Covid patients who suffered from other ailments. Not only orthos, but even ENT specialists, gynaecologists and psychiatrists are all currently treating Covid patients.”

The YCMH administration, however, refused to attribute the large number of deaths of Covid patients to shortage of specialists. “It would not be appropriate to ascribe the deaths to shortage of specialists. But yes, we can say that some deaths could have been prevented if adequate specialists were there,” Dr Wable said.

There were other key factors, said Dr Wable, like severity of co-morbidity and delayed arrival of patients. “Some patients lost their lives within hours of being admitted. They delayed seeking treatment. There were others who were shifted to YCM hospital in serious condition only when the private hospitals failed to treat them,” he said.

Dr Wable said the PCMC administration has selected some doctors, but their appointment has been delayed for some reasons. “Once these specialists are appointed, the hospital will be in a better position to treat serious patients,” he said.

BJP rules PCMC. MLA Mahesh Landge, who is party’s Pimpri-Chinchwad president, said, “True, there is shortage of specialist doctors at YCM hospital. We have appointed some and issued advertisements for appointing more medical staff. The shortage is being felt as some senior doctors have fallen ill… I will speak to PCMC administration and urge it to expedite the appointment of doctors.”

PCMC Additional Municipal Commissioner Santosh Patil said, “There is shortage of specialist doctors. We have selected some doctors but the proposal is pending before the general body meeting for final approval. Among the selected doctors, 80 per cent are already working with us.”

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