Only urgent cases being referred outside for treatment due to COVID

Due to COVID-19, referral cases has decreased. So far Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) has referred two groups, mainly to Kolkata. This is unlike in the past, when JDWNRH used to refer patients outside for treatment every week.

The liaison Officer of JDWNRH said the first round of patients left for Kolkata in August and after that, the hospital has been managing to refer patients every month. Earlier, approximately 10 to 15 patients were referred in a week. Currently, only those urgent cases are referred. He said, cases like knee replacement and even kidney patients are not referred outside for a while now.

In 2018-2019, 695 patients were referred outside for treatment in Kolkata and Vellore followed by 112 patients in Kolkata and 28 patients in Vellore in the year 2019-2020.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, referring patients outside has been challenging unlike in the past. Medical Superintendent of JDWNRH, Dr Gosar Pemba said as per the requirement of the Indian Government, patients and attendants have to all be COVID-19 negative. Earlier, Patients and attendant were sent outside for treatment in a weekly basis but due to limited people travelling, there are no flights being operated like in the past. Since there should be adequate number of people for flight to operate, the hospital has been piling up cases and at the end of the month or more, they are referred.

Another issue is that when patients reach India for treatment, they are at a high risk of getting infected as three patients in Kolkata have already tested positive for COVID-19. So if they get infected then they cannot do their treatment.

Dr Gosar said if the patient needs to be operated, then doctors there will not operate till the patient tests negative. And even after testing, it will depend upon their health. With this, patient’s treatment may be prolonged.

Then the other issue is when the patients return back after treatment, patients have to quarantined for 21 days, for which the government bears the cost. And some patients get sick while in the quarantine, so doctors and nurses are sent to them and some patients needs continuation of the treatment and so the hospital is also providing them with treatment like chemotherapy, dressing, medication and others.

Dr Gosar said patients are returning back from the country where there are high cases of COVID-19 but so far no patient has tested COVID-19 positive back here. Patients and attendants are briefed before leaving.

Only urgent cases are referred and not any regular cases. Usually the cases referred are cancer, heart disease, and followed by bleeding in the brain similar to stroke. Before COVID-19, even those surgeries which can be done later were referred. outside.  

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