With people avoiding non-essential medical procedures during the lockdown, the government can use the now-empty private hospitals for Coronavirus treatment and containment
Ever since the Coronavirus made its presence known in Wuhan, till date, the entire world is obsessed with the contagion, postponing everything else. The fact is that the Coronavirus has humankind shivering with mortal fear. Nevertheless, it has its positive facets too.
India has the unique qualities to withstand, face and bear with any calamity. It has proved so on many occasions in the past that it can come out of any grave situation with little damage to its population. The present-day Coronavirus spread is no exception to that. From time immemorial in our country, despite many drawbacks, the public health system had always been easily available, accessible and affordable to the people in their own way. Even before advancements in medical and health sectors, new technologies, diagnostic tools, advanced treatment protocols, the services of RMPs, PMPs, LMPs in rural areas and ordinary MBBS doctors in the urban areas were available across the length and breadth of the country.
The influx of corporate hospitals in the cities and metropolitan and two-tier cities and the subsequent initiatives of governments made the medical and health services within the reach of the common man. Arogyasri is the best example of this. This is precisely the reason why in India, we never opted for or preferred a National Health Scheme (NHS) like in the UK or Obama care in the US, which are influenced by the insurance companies.
Health care basically has to be divided as primary, secondary and tertiary. Most of the medical problems that require health care fall in the primary category. Only a few are in the tertiary category and the rest are secondary. There are a large number of Primary Health Centres (PHC) and Community Health Centres (CHC) in the government sector to take care of primary health care free of cost for all. For secondary care, there is an adequate number of area hospitals. For tertiary care, there are speciality and super-speciality hospitals at all identified places, mostly in the private sector and a few in public.
In the past, not many decades ago, grandmothers used to treat regular ailments like cold and cough, dysentery, indigestion and ordinary fevers with the spice box or the colloquial 'Popu Dabba' in the kitchen. It used to be the home dispensary for these regular ailments. The resident family doctors who were treating the family for generations would immediately come up with a remedy within no time, as they would be aware of the families medical history.
In post-Independence India, a lot of emphasis was put on public health. To prevent and curtail epidemics like Cholera and Malaria, administering vaccines like the BCG became mandatory since 1948. This probably helped our people to develop a level of immunity to the new viruses and bacteria. We could successfully eradicate Small Pox, Diphtheria, Leprosy, Polio and a host of other diseases besides controlling Malaria. And this perhaps will also help us in getting over the Coronavirus.
In the pre-Corona days, the public health facilities, both in the government and private sector are so accessible to the people that from the Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in rural areas to the major corporate hospitals in the cities have always thronged with people. Every hospital, every private clinic, diagnostic centres, outpatient facilities in all the hospitals have always been crowded until this particular outbreak. The mushrooming of corporate hospitals is living proof. All the private hospitals, clinics, diagnostic centres were working full time to manage the patients. Telangana State, especially Hyderabad became the medical, health and pharma hub for the whole of Asia and maybe to the world too. This can be verified from the fact that the number of patients coming from abroad to various corporate hospitals in Hyderabad is much more than any other state in the country.
The scene reversed overnight after the Coronavirus outbreak. Now, except Coronavirus related cases, there is virtually no talk or presence of any other ailment. The corporate hospitals are deserted and so is the case with the PHCs, private clinics, dispensaries, small and medium hospitals. No cases of even accidents are forthcoming. The entire scenario changed in such a manner as though nothing exists except the virus in the medical and health sectors. People stopped complaining about their high or low blood pressure, their blood sugar levels and their frequent ailments, whether chronic or not.
A leading pulmonologist explains the scenario as in any private or corporate hospitals there are four categories of revenue generation. 25 per cent of revenue comes from foreign patients. 10 per cent from the Out-Patient Dispensary (OPD), 40 per cent from elective surgeries and 25 per cent from emergency surgeries. Due to the Coronavirus, elected surgeries have stopped. Due to worldwide travel restrictions, there are no foreign patients or medical tourism. Patients who otherwise used to throng to the hospitals on a normal day prefer to take local medical advice and postpone their hospitalisation for some time due to travel and transport restrictions.
A practising dermatologist in Hyderabad observed that, when a life-threatening situation like the outbreak of Coronavirus comes up, people tend to put their regular and ordinary ailments in cold storage. They are more bothered about the deadly virus than their skin ailment or some other ordinary ailment.
A pioneering paediatric physician in the city, whose clinic always had serpentine queues, finds no one even calling him up over the phone. This is interesting because he used to get several calls daily. This does not mean that people have no medical problems regarding their children. It is because they no longer feel it as being the top of their day to day agenda. For them, uppermost in their minds is the Coronavirus and nothing else.
The lockdown did more help than harm to the people. It taught people the importance of personal hygiene. It also imbibed the need to keep the environments free of any pollution. It taught people the dignity of labour. It taught self-discipline and changed their perception of life for the better. It taught them the importance of social relationships. More than anything else, it taught them the real meaning of life and the importance of being alive.
Due to the lockdown with the majority of people remaining in their homes, the pollution levels have come down drastically which would have been an impossible task in normal days. Nature started rediscovering itself. Since there was no movement of vehicles, the accidents rate came down to zero. There are no inpatients for both government and private hospitals. No emergency operations.
Against this background and at a time when the occupancy rate in the private corporate hospitals has drastically come down, the government may probably consider taking control of these hospitals to make use of their bed strength for any future need that might arise to counter Coronavirus.
The writer is Chief Public Relations Officer to Chief Minister Telangana. Viewsexpressed are strictly personal