Further, two to three children are diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disorder that can lead to chronic lung infections and nutritional deficiencies among others, on a monthly basis. But, from March 2020 to November 2020, paediatricians at the premier medical institute and hospital say not a single patient with CF visited the OPD. These are just a few examples.
Child specialists at AIIMS and other top hospitals say due to the Covid-19 pandemic, care of the other illnesses have been adversely affected, which could lead to a serious crisis in future. To prevent that, the government must restore routine services, the doctors say.
According to an editorial published in The Indian Journal of Paediatrics by Dr SK Kabra and Dr Rakesh Lodha, professors in the paediatric department of AIIMS, the institute had registered 180 new children with tuberculosis (TB) during March to October 2019, while during corresponding period in 2020, only five children were diagnosed with TB, who got hospitalised through emergency room due to severe illness.
“These indicative observations (about decline in the registration of cases of chronic respiratory problems, CF and TB) suggest that these illnesses are missed and those in follow-up got less than optimal care,” the editorial says.
According to the IJP editorial, the impact of missed or delayed diagnosis of conditions, such as CF or TB, is quite serious. “Similarly, less optimal treatment for children with chronic respiratory problems can affect the final outcome that we are likely to encounter in the coming months and years,” it adds.
According to Dr Anupam Sibal, group medical director, Apollo hospitals group and senior paediatrician gastroenterologist and hepatologist, many children undergoing treatment at their hospital missed their follow-ups and tests. “People visited only for emergency needs. Chronic illnesses were ignored during the peak of the outbreak,” he said. Dr Sibal added that “people must realise that Covid-19 is going to be around for some time and fear of the infection should not let them ignore other serious illnesses that can prove fatal.”
Dr Lodha and Dr Kabra argue in the IJP editorial that phased opening of non-Covid services without creating apprehensions among the general public as well as HCPs or increasing the risk of surge in infections is the need of the hour and should be initiated as soon as possible.
“Facility-specific plans should be developed to ensure protection of both patients and healthcare providers (HCPs) from exposure to the virus, while accounting for shortage of HCPs and infrastructure (both for the care of patients with Covid-19 and non-Covid conditions), and prioritising the access to patients with various acute and chronic conditions,”they add.