Respond in sensesOctober 5, 2020
Challenges become multifold if we start reacting to a crisis instead of responding to it, and that is exactly what is happening in today’s Corona times. People with heart attacks and heart blocks are taking chances at home for fear of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection, knowing fully well that the odds of dying from these critical illnesses is far more than those of being harmed by the coronavirus. At the same time, chances of acquiring infections when proper precautions are taken are minimal. Moreover, the mortality rate for COVID-19 is around 3%, but the mortality rate in an untreated cardiac emergency is around 90%. How can we explain this behaviour on part of the patients and the thinking process behind it? It is simply the fear of the virus hijacking the logical thought process of people.
We have become much wiser in terms of understanding COVID-19 in the last six months. Chances of a serious outcome from coronavirus are gradually coming down and we have some drugs which can provide some relief and help in the recovery. Also, we are better prepared in terms of hospital facilities for sick patients and quarantine centres for the asymptomatic ones. If we put all this together, it becomes clear and evident that critical non-corona diseases have killed more patients over the last few months. This is only because of the trepidation and unfounded stigma around this tiny organism.
A Lancet study reported that more than 7,000 people died every day in India because of cardiovascular diseases in 2016. The condition has only worsened in subsequent years.
Between January 30, when the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country, and May 3, the last day of the second extension of the lockdown, it is estimated that about 24 lakh people have died in India and one of the biggest contributors was cardiovascular disease. The situation is developing into a dangerous whirlpool, with patients and family members indulging in procrastination these days.
Looking at the brighter side, almost every hospital has made changes in their standard operating procedures (SOPs) for dealing with medical emergencies in the present crisis to offer the most efficient management protocol. All the precautions are taken simultaneously to prevent the spread of the infection to others (healthcare workers and fellow patients). Once the patient is given the necessary life-saving treatment, he is then shifted to a particular ward as per his COVID-19 status.
It is high time, therefore, to not throw away the lives of critical patients merely because of the fear of the virus, which is anyway going to be tamed soon with the development of vaccines. Meanwhile, the definition and importance of the golden hour in the treatment of heart attack has not changed. So let’s avoid the delay: Treatment delayed is treatment denied.
Writes is a Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist and Device Specialist, Medica Superspecialty Hospital, Kolkata