Mumbai has seen at least three hospitals suspend regular operations due to infections spread by asymptomatic COVID-19 positive patients or suspected COVID-19 patients. In the midst of this coronavirus crisis, high risk patients like those who need dialysis are bearing the brunt of life saving facilities also being affected by the coronavirus crisis. Three private hospitals have stopped elective admissions and Out-Patient Departments (OPDs) as corrective measures but several dialysis patients have been affected by the crisis.
Aftab Ansari, a kidney patient for many years, told NDTV, "I was undergoing dialysis at Millat Hospital for three-and-a-half years. After dialysis on Saturday, they shut the centre on Monday saying they had a suspected patient. It was sealed after that. I have missed two dialysis sessions now."
Aftab Ansari had to get dialysis at another centre but only after he got himself tested for coronavirus. It was touch and go for him as another day's delay could have landed him with serious complications, according to doctors. Luckily, he got his dialysis session, after missing two of them.
"If I have to go to another centre I have to get a coronavirus test done. No new centre will admit me without a coronavirus test. The test at a private laboratory costs Rs 6,500. Where will I get the money from on the spot," Mr Ansari asks. Finally, his usual hospital did give him an appointment, but the delay could well have been dangerous.
When asked about the crisis, Aslam Shaikh, Guardian Minister for Mumbai City told NDTV, "What happened with Millat was that there was a patient and a nurse who were suspected to have been infected with coronavirus. So it had to be shut for some days. We have started it today and simultaneously we have taken a decision that we are going to start dialysis centres for patients who are suspected to be infected with Covid-19. We are going to start this in Mumbai City and suburbs also."
Shashank Moddhia, the founder of The Renal Project, a startup that runs a chain of micro dialysis centres across Mumbai lists the perils of the situation. According to estimates, there are 60,000 patients who are on dialysis in Mumbai Metropolitan area and almost 25 per cent of the patients are estimated to be affected by suspension of their dialysis provider for a number of reasons that from staff shortage, to sealing of areas logistical issues. "A few hospitals and dialysis centres had to shut down because a patient was found to be COVID-19 positive. By the time they can find another provider five to ten days have lapsed for all the testing that needs to be done. That is a serious risk to their health because they would have missed two or three sessions," Mr Moddhia told NDTV.
The entire healthcare sector is facing a challenge with capacity being reduced in a country where services are woefully short already. For those with critical needs like chemotherapy or dialysis, if a centre shut down, the situation can easily escalate into a life and death issue. The city's civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation or BMC has now issued guidelines for dialysis centres to follow protocols for providing dialysis to patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. The BMC has also designated dialysis centres at five hospitals - KEM Hospital, Kasturba Hospital, Seven Hills Hospital, Nanavati Hospital and Saifee Hospital - exclusively for COVID-19 positive patients.