Picture Credit- Aarthi N

Patients needing dialysis, chemo face a difficult situation

COVID-19 Health

Hospitals change their schedules; private ones offer home service only for some categories.

Aarthi N

Chennai: Patients who need dialysis or chemotherapy are finding it difficult to stick to prescribed schedules. Reasons: Police stop them and there is no transport. 

Bhuvana (name changed), 46, has been undergoing dialysis thrice a week for the past three years in a private hospital in the city. After the lockdown was announced, the hospital asked her to come twice a week. She was asked to find a different dialysis centre when she insisted the old schedule be followed.

Dialysis is a life-saving procedure for acute and chronic kidney disease; chemotherapy is used to treat cancer patients. Not taking these treatments as scheduled could put a patient’s life at risk.

Bhuvana shared: “After the lockdown was announced, we went to the hospital which is 15 km away from our house in our car. We were stopped by a few policemen who asked us the reason for our travel. Explaining the situation to them was difficult. Also, finding a new dialysis centre was not easy. We found a dialysis hospital only after visiting four other hospitals.”

Not all patients receive home service for dialysis and chemotherapy.

About home service, she added: “Though the government had said doctors could go to patients’ homes to do dialysis, the service is provided only by a few private hospitals. It is for patients who cannot come to the clinic or are seriously ill. Hospitals should avoid changing dialysis schedules.”

A 54-year-old who spoke on the condition he would not be named said: “We have to go to hospitals for dialysis every alternate day. Only those who have peritoneal dialysis can get treatment at home. I don’t think others are provided that luxury.”

Admitting that going to a hospital is scary during the lockdown, he said: “Though my neighbours do not know why I go to the hospital, they are angry with me because I don’t follow quarantine guidelines properly.”

Hari P said his mother, who is 61 years old, has been undergoing treatment for cancer for the past one year. “She was diagnosed with breast cancer and has to undergo chemotherapy every week. As it is difficult to travel, we enquired if we could have a nurse come home for the therapy. The hospital wasn’t willing to provide that. The other nurses we contacted through friends and family refused to come home…. The hospital informed us that they send doctors to only bedridden patients once a month or in case of an emergency.”

It becomes difficult to manage when the hospitals reschedule an appointment suddenly, he added.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister has announced that people needing dialysis and those suffering from chronic illnesses can call 108 for an ambulance to take them to hospital and drop them back. But the patients said the number is busy. Besides, they are worried that their neighbours will create a fuss if an ambulance arrives.

Many private hospitals said they do not offer home treatment. 

Praveen, a technician who works in Nephroplus Dialysis Centre in Kilpauk, said: “All dialysis patients come to the hospital according to the appointments given to them. They come in their own vehicles. People who are bedridden ask us for ambulance service. Doctors do not go to patients’ houses. They can do dialysis only in hospitals that have facilities.”

An official from the Adyar Cancer Institute who didn’t want to be named said the same about patients coming for chemotherapy. “We are currently treating patients who were scheduled to come last month. We haven’t scheduled any new patients to come for chemotherapy. Patients have to come to the hospital as all the required equipment is here. We cannot do it at home. We are asking only a few patients to come because of the situation right now.”

Bhaskar, an ambulance driver working for Dr Kamakshi Memorial Hospital, Chennai, said: “In this time, most patients come in their own vehicles.” The hospital sends the ambulance only when there is an emergency, or if a patient does not have a vehicle.

Govindasamy K, a head constable, said they do not stop people who say they are going to hospital. “We do not ask for passes or medical documents either.”

This reporter tried to speak with seven nephrologists but they all refused to comment.

According to a Times of India report, The Directorate of Medical Services had issued an order stating that registration of hospitals would be cancelled if they that do not provide essential medical care or refuse to treat people.

Picture Courtesy – Pexels


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