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Experience of an Oncologist during COVID

by Shalini Bhardwaj

By Dr Dinesh Singh
I am a Radiation Oncologist working at Max Hospital, Vaishali. When Covid came and the lockdown was announced, everything came to a standstill. There were apprehension and fear in the atmosphere. Non-covid services were stopped in Hospital to accommodate the expected huge rush of Covid patients. Cancer patients had a particularly tough time. It was a very difficult time for cancer specialists and cancer patients alike. After initial hiccoughs, we cancer specialists in our hospital started coming regularly with all due precautions. A very difficult time for us, while working in OPD wearing of PPE kits was not mandatory. We used to wear N95 masks, gloves, OT dress, Cap, face shield, shoe cover to keep ourselves safe from getting exposed to covid.
The extra plastic shield was erected in front of our working desk for giving us extra protection. Patients who had cancer and undergoing treatment continued with added precautions Because discontinuing cancer treatment is riskier. Treatments were modified to make them less intense, radiotherapy schedules were reworked to reduce number of visits to the
hospital, to reduce exposure in the hospital. Some patients while before radiation or during treatment got Covid, they required a break in treatment. The majority recovered but a few unfortunately lost battel to Covid. Surgeries were modified to reduce anesthesia time. Plastic reconstruction was significantly reduced or modified. Chemotherapy schedules were modified for making them less immunocompromising and
reducing hospital visits.
Impact on patients who had symptoms of cancer and suspected cancer.
These were affected a lot. They avoided hospital visits, coming to the hospital was difficult. Their diagnosis got delayed. Patients with early-stage cancer progressed to advanced stages thus reducing their cure rates and increasing treatment duration and cost of treatment.
Impact on patients on follow up. Mostly these patients had follow up online with video consult and were able to sail through comfortably expect few who had a recurrence but got delayed due to travel restrictions and
also due to fear of covid in hospital.
Fear of existing covid patients in the hospital
This was a big fear factor in the mind of many patients and their caregivers that by visiting hospital which already has covid patients might put them and their patients exposed to
covid.
This was the main factor that caused majority of problems of LIKE
Delay in getting diagnosed
Delay in taking treatment
Delay in follow up and investigation.

The writer is Dr Dinesh Singh, Director, Radiation Oncology ,Max Hospital Vaishali and Patparganj.

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