As the eventuality of a large number of healthcare professionals contracting COVID-19 stares at Telangana government, senior doctors from various government hospitals have come up with suggestions to delay the spread without interrupting medical services.

The list includes implementation of tele-consultation facility so that patients with minor health problems can avoid hospital visits; booking appointments well in advance to avoid crowding in out-patient sections; screen between doctors and patients; strict enforcement of masks and no-spitting rules; and restricting number of attendants of a patient, even if it is a VIP.

They have said that these suggestions have to be implemented at the earliest so as to avoid a situation where there aren’t enough doctors to attend critical cases.

After relaxations in lockdown norms, people have started visiting hospitals in large numbers, even for minor health issues. Doctors say that such avoidable visits may expose the patients as well as hospital staff to the virus.

Heads of major government hospitals said though they are trying to enforce physical distancing and masks, the number of violations is frustrating to handle.

A senior doctor at Osmania General Hospital (OGH), on the condition of anonymity, said that some patients who consulted them in the past few weeks are complaining of minor ailments such as indigestion or seeking refill of prescribed medicines. “These kind of problems can be addressed through tele-consultation. Along with the patient, their attendants too can avoid visiting hospitals. After initial tele-consultation, if doctors opine that a patient needs in-person consultation, they can visit. Otherwise, there is no need to get out of home. This helps both the patient as well as the doctor to reduce exposure to the virus,” the doctor said.

The option of tele-consultation, which requires internet connection and a phone camera, has already been implemented by many corporate hospitals. “If a government can arrange live streaming through web cameras at all election booths during voting, arrangement for tele-consultation can be done too,” a junior doctor said.

Another senior doctor who also made the same suggestion said that managing attendants has become a task for them. “Like corporate hospitals, the number of attendants has to be strictly restricted. Recently, a political leader walked into our hospital demanding that he be allowed to see a patient while the attendants were already there. You can imagine how such a situation would have panned out in a corporate hospital,” said the doctor from OGH.

‘Use PPE’

Senior officials in Health department said the health of doctors, nurses, para medical staff and contract employees is of priority. “Our message to them is, do not hesitate to use PPE if there is a need for it,” an official said.

Steps are being taken to recruit more healthcare professionals. “Regardless of that, we are keen on protecting our existing doctors, nurses, para medical staff, Class-IV employees, from coronavirus,” the official said.

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