The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi is to resume non-emergency surgeries despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria informed The Times of India that those not affected by COVID-19 – the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), commonly referred to just as the coronavirus – should not have their health needs neglected. “A patient who requires a knee replacement cannot be asked to wait for long,” he said. “Lack of surgery may affect his or her quality of life. Similarly, a patient suffering from advanced malignancy needs to be operated soon to check disease progression and reduce the suffering.”
Continuance of care in the era of a pandemic is a difficult balancing act for healthcare providers to maintain. For patient safety, Guleria told The Times of India that “the resumption of surgeries will have to be in a graded manner. Priority will be given to patients who cannot wait at all, and depending on how things progress, a decision will be taken at a later stage on whether to resume services at full scale.”
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted healthcare at the global level. India is not immune to this trend. As a consequence of the outbreak, Safdarjung Hospital and the Guru Nanak Eye Centre in Delhi both cancelled non-emergency surgeries. At Safdarjung, non-emergency surgeries constituted 85 percent of the near-280 procedures performed each day at the time the decision was made. AIIMS decided to postpone non-emergency surgeries from March 20th.
The outpatient department of AIIMS reportedly witnesses a daily footfall in excess of 10,000. The premier medical institute conducts almost 500 procedures daily, of which 85 percent are non-emergency surgeries. The decision to resume non-emergency services highlights that, even as the coronavirus crisis continues, it is not the sole health challenge faced by the country’s citizens or its hospitals.
A return to normalcy may not presently be in sight, but ensuring healthcare needs are addressed, be they coronavirus or not, is necessary. The need of the hour is to ensure that care and treatment is administered in a manner that is safe amidst the pandemic, for providers and patients alike.