Covid-19 aftercare: A long way to go for Karnataka

Covid-19 aftercare: A long way to go for Karnataka

According to WHO, 20% of Covid-19 patients in the 18-35 age group report symptoms for weeks after recover

At a time when more than 35,000 Covid-19 patients require aftercare in the state, Victoria hospital — the largest government Covid hospital which had announced plans to initiate a 'Post-Covid Care' clinic in mid-August — is yet to start the facility.

More than 7.41 lakh Covid patients have been discharged in the state till Thursday; over 1.77 lakh are in the age group of 21 to 30.

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According to the World Health Organization, about 20% of Covid-19 patients in the 18-35 age group report symptoms for weeks after recovery.

Taking care after discharge also brings an economic burden, especially for the poor. The Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD), the only government hospital that is offering Covid aftercare, has incurred an expenditure of Rs 3 lakh to treat 72 such patients free of cost. Treating each patient costs up to Rs 5,500, which the poor cannot afford.

RGICD's post-Covid clinic became operational on September 1. Of the 72 patients who visited the clinic, 33% suffered breathlessness, 28% had fatigue followed by cough, 24% had lung fibrosis, 15% suffered hypoxia and 11% suffered psychological symptoms like depression and adjustment disorder.

The Victoria Hospital has reached out to 2,000 Covid-19 survivors in the past three months out of the 5,780 who were discharged.

A total of 6,525 Covid patients were admitted to the hospital in the past seven months.

Though a screening room was set aside next to the Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) on the Victoria campus, it is still awaiting inauguration. In the absence of the government's Covid aftercare facilities, patients are left to pay for care at private hospitals. The central team which reviewed the management of the pandemic in Karnataka observed that the state health department has not paid attention in finding out the health problems faced by Covid patients after recovery.

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"An old screening room has been identified as the Covid rehabilitation centre. But since the testing target for the Covid lab is 500 samples, the room is being used for testing purposes. We have to identify another place if we cannot use this room. We are getting physiotherapy equipment that the government has already approved for chest physiotherapy," said a doctor at the Victoria Hospital, requesting anonymity.

"We are awaiting the official inauguration before we can put out the working hours and phone numbers on our website so that it is also accessible to patients who have been treated elsewhere and have post-Covid problems. We are doing a consultation on the phone as of now. We will have to charge the patients for CT scan though," the doctor said.

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Tests at RGCID

At RGICD, patients undergo complete blood count tests, blood sugar, renal function test, pulmonary function/diffusion capacity test, ECG, ECHO, X-Ray, CT Thorax, six-minute walk test, physiotherapy, D-Dimer, and other inflammatory markers' test.

The hospital has an MoU with a private facility called Ragavs Diagnostic and Research Centre for doing CT scans. For each scan, RGICD pays the facility Rs 2,000. The hospital calls patients up to six weeks after discharge from the hospital.