Help!! There’s a patient here. He is having trouble breathing. Please help! A patient is raced into the ER from an ambulance which still has it’s blue light flashing and the attendants of the patient screaming for the doctor on duty.
A familiar scene for most of the doctors working in the emergency room. The reflex response would be a quick scanning for any obvious trauma and consciousness all the while putting a face mask and connecting it to the wall oxygen outlet. Then put a stethoscope to the chest and listen to all areas of lungs and heart and then also put a pulse oxymeter and record other vital signs. If you ever had the (mis)fortune of visiting an ER, it’s a common sight.
Patients with asthma, COPD, heart failure being wheeled in while gasping for breath and attending physicians rushing to them on a high priority basis.
(Un)luckily, they aren’t the only one who visit the ER. On an average day, people come with pain of all sorts, bumps, brises, gashes, fractures, burns, fever, upset stomach or loose motion and many time a poison intake – at least that’s what I mostly encountered in my brief experience over the last 1 year. And except for a few cases, we never really disappointed anyone and when I went home, I could sleep peacefully; knowing well that I helped to the best of my ability and knowledge.
Then COVID-19 came into our lives like a cyclone, wrecking everything in it’s path. And with the blink of an eye, the healthcare sytem changed. Terms like Dedicated COVID hospitals were coined, The familiar picture of flooded ER in a crowded hospital with serpentine queues was seen no more. A bright picture, right!
Wrong!! Very, very wrong!! People had to hide their problems. They are scared to even go to a hospital. The once familiar picture of a doctor in a colourful dress +/- a white coat and a stethoscope around the neck with occassionally a reassuing smile or a pat on the shoulder, was replaced by indistinguishable people covered from head to toe in white with eyes peeping through the face shield/goggles and the smile covered by a mask. ER in Dedicated COVID hospitals turned into admission help desk and people with other problems had to be turned away. Even the person running short of breath has to wait to be admitted (if at all he is lucky to get a bed) and only then the doctors are able to manage their problem.
In other hospitals, doctors in protective gear, attend the patients; but COVID-19 remains the roadblock in any couse of management. It’s a nightmare. Need an emergency surgery, you might be infected – full protective gear necessary. A patient of COPD or asthma? Need nebulization? You must be isolated first. Had a heart attack? You need to be tested as well. Have a sore throat? Let me put on my face shield first. Need your eyes checked? Please maintain safe distance from me. So you see, COVID-19 has integrated itself in every medical care facility. It has changed our normal treatment reflexes and we need to re-train ourselves to protocols, guidelines and administrative rules.
So next time you visit an ER, never for once think that we care less about you. We will go to any extent to help you medically. If we turn you away, know that it also pains us to not be able to help you. Hope to see yo in a better world, free from this pandemic.