Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) has put in a safety measure of social distancing to make sure patients in queues are at safe distance from each other. This also helps to control the over-crowding of patients.
As per the records maintained with JDWNRH, the number of patients visiting the hospital has reduced by more than 50 percent as compared to the same period in the previous years.
The records also show that there were hardly any patients visiting doctors in JDWNRH when the first COVID-19 case was reported on 5 March. However, the fear of the coronavirus has reduced with more and more patients getting their health checkup done at JDWNRH in April.
Medical Superintendent of JDWNRH, Dr Gosar Pemba, said the initial fear of COVID-19 made people avoid the hospital, especially after they misunderstood the public safety message asking the people to visit the hospital unless it is necessary.
“They might have misunderstood as saying don’t come. So this might be the reason for people not visiting hospital earlier, but now, as people have become more and more knowledgeable because of the more information disseminated in TV and social media, so they come, and since there is no confirmed cases of local transmission in Bhutan,” said the Medical Superintendent.
Although the general OPD receives many patients everyday, however, there are few visits recorded in the pediatric OPD during the months of March and April this year. According to Dr Gosar Pemba, most parents being careful and not taking their children to the hospital unless it is absolutely required.
“The hospital cannot restrict any patient from visiting the hospital, but we have put in several measures to avoid over-crowding, and have been informing the public through TV and Facebook page, to make appointments with the doctors so that they do not have to wait outside the doctor’s chamber and to avoid crowding in one area,” said Dr Gosar Pemba.
JDWNRH has sent directives to doctors to avoid recommending investigations, like X-Ray, ultrasound and various blood tests, unless it is urgently required. The hospital is dispensing enough medicines to last for two months to the patients with chronic health conditions, like diabetes and hypertension. It is to help the mostly elderly patients from having to visit the hospital often. Triage is also set up outside each department to question and sort out patients if some of them are lying about their flu like symptoms to avoid going to the flu clinic. If patients are found with flu symptoms then they will asked to visit the flu clinic for the safety of other patients without the flu.
Dr Gosar said, “Triage in the emergency will do the triaging outside, so if any patients is suspected of COVID-19 then immediately the test is done. And if it is negative and then the patient is thoroughly checked and the patient is admitted if required. If positive, the patient will be directly admitted to the isolation ward.”
As an added preventive measure, the hospital advises people to visit the hospital only if necessary. Therefore, less children and students are seen loitering around in the hospital nowadays.
“We are doing every possible to make sure to avoid over-crowding but sometimes it does not go as we plan. Earlier, the hospital asked patient to seek appointment in order to avoid over-crowding and waiting in line but it did not work as we thought. People are not used to with making appointments. They make appointments and when they cannot visit, they don’t even make a call to inform the hospital that they cannot make it. We are also thinking of withdrawing appointment system. Similarly, there are challenges but we will overcome it,” said Dr Gosar.
Dr Gosar said although there is no case of local transmission, but the risk is always there for local transmission.
Meanwhile, all three COVID-19 patients are discharged from the isolation ward and continuing their quarantine period in one of the quarantine center. Team Three health officials have left for their quarantine last Tuesday.
Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said the ministry has requested the general public to visit the hospital only if it is necessary. When the first case was reported and admitted in the hospital, less number of people were seen visiting hospital. But right after the COVID-19 patients tested negative and were sent to the hotel, a lot of people are visiting the hospital.
Lyonpo requested all the people to make an appointment if they have to visit the hospital so that this would avoid over-crowding and to also avoiding visiting patients.