Covid-19 scare drives away OPD patients in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram, April 10 (IANS) Once teeming with patients requiring treatment of various diseases, government and private hospitals across Kerala have witnessed a dramatic and drastic fall in people visiting their Out-Patient Departments (OPDs) ever since India's first coronavirus patient was reported from the state on January 30.

On normal days, according to official figures, on an average over 4 lakh patients visited various state-run medical centres in the previous fiscal. Today, the numbers have crashed to a mere 10 per cent of the earlier footfall.

At present, over 1.40 lakh persons are under observation in Kerala, with 357 coronavirus patients.

The Kerala's health system comprises district hospital in each of the 14 districts and healthcare institutions at the grass-roots level, besides eight medical colleges and the fledgling private healthcare centres.

A health professional attached to the state's premier medical college hospital in the state capital said that as compared with around 5,000 out patients on normal days, a mere 200 persons visited the OPDs nowadays.

“It's understandable that as this hospital is one of the centres to treat Covid-19 patients and suspected cases. So, none would like to take a risk,” said the professional who did not wish to be identified.

At a leading private hospital in the central district of the state, the scene is no different.

“Today, we have mere 15 to 20 per cent OPD patients compared with normal days. But one difference is that we are getting numerous calls from state-run hospitals to see if we can accommodate patients if they are shifted here. In our hospital, the strength of medical professionals is less,” said a medical professional on the condition of anonimity.

Numerous medical scaning centres and medical laboratories too nowadays give a desolate looks, though they used to be overcrowded otherwise.

Their precarious situation is borne by the fact that their staff have been intimated about 50 per cent cut in salaries by managements due to poor turnout of patients, which was in circulation on social media.

Though the Kerala government has warned of strict action against private healthcare institutions cutting salaries or asking staff to quit, it has not happened on the ground. Members of staff of a private hospital here have approached the Labour Department with the complaint that they have been asked to quit by the mangement.

So, while the authorities in Kerala fight against the spread of coronavirus, staff of private healthcare stare at an uncertain future, at least in the near future.



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