“People are still apprehensive of visiting the hospital though we have separate sections for Covid and non-Covid patients. They prefer going to a consultant’s clinic,” said Dr R Dastur, director (medical), of Bhatia Hospital. Before the pandemic, the 200-bed facility at Tardeo clocked around 25 surgeries a day. “It’s down to 4 to 5 per day, which is also leading to a revenue loss,” said Dr Dastur.
At Jaslok Hospital, surgeries and procedures dropped to 32 in April from a monthly average of 700-800. It increased to 89 in May, 157 in June and 289 in July. Wockhardt in Mumbai Central started a separate 30-bed arrangement for non-Covid patients a month ago, but is yet to start offering surgeries.
When Covid cases began to trickle in in March, government asked hospitals to focus on Covid and emergency cases, leading to a halt in elective surgeries, a situation further hit by healthcare workers testing positive. And despite creating separate entrances and segregating staff for non-Covid cases, the situation has not changed. Doctors said many patients have seen an aggravation of their condition owing to the delay in seeking care.
Aishwarya Gopalakrishnan (15) went on ventilator soon after arriving at Nanavati Hospital, gasping, in April. What was suspected to be Covid, turned out to be a complication arising out of a worsening spinal curvature due to advanced scoliosis. “It compressed her lungs causing extremely low oxygen saturation. After a week of being on ventilator, we operated on her,” said spine surgeon Dr Mihir Bapat, adding that while the girl was lucky to have come at the right time, many may have suffered irreversible damage. “My message to people is that hospitals have green zones now and nobody knows how long the pandemic will last, so don’t delay,” he added. Nanavati, from an average of 600 surgeries a month, saw a 78% decline in April, 82% in May and 81% in June. Even with some improvement in July, the dip was 73%.
Dr Santosh Shetty, COO of Kokilaben Ambani Hospital, said cancer, neurosurgeries, critical care, urology are departments that have started getting patients. “Things improved with unlocking but it’s nowhere close to normal,” he said. Having a separate building for Covid patients helped Bombay Hospital, which carried out 411 surgeries during the lockdown. “We assured people over phone and during consultations that it was safe to get operated as we have separate staff and protocols,” said Dr Gautam Bhansali.
BMC’s Sion Hospital, which had between 80-100 major and minor surgeries in a day, has now started doing over 30. “We started routine work about a week ago and anticipate an increase in footfall as more Covid patients are shifted to jumbo centres,” said dean Dr Ramesh Bharmal.