Dr Mohan Bhandari, a medical officer at Doctor On Call, has seen a change in the way he is received when he makes house calls now in the time of COVID-19 pandemic, at least on two occasions out of 15. Earlier he used to find that the patients’ family members were worried about the patient only. But in the lockdown, he has found the patients’ family taking precautions during his visits.
He recounts, “When I was on house call for an orthopaedic patient, a chair was arranged for his treatment in the parking space in their home. Similar was the case of a UTI patient — I checked the patient in the compound of his home.”
Dr Suyesh Karki, Director of Doctor On Call, also highlighted the same change in behaviour of patients’ family during house calls during the lockdown as against days prior. He said patients and family used to find it difficult to trust unknown doctors who visited them after a phone call. “Patients used to be curious about doctors they did not know. Now, we don’t find such a curiosity in them. They are more focussed on just the treatment.
Moreover, they are more worried about the risk catching COVID-19, just like we are,” he says.
Dr Nabina Suwal from Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital also says treatment is what patients want, but at the same time, precautions to ensure the safety of both patients and doctors are also important while on house calls.
Dr Bhandari seconds that adding, “We always follow safety measures like using gloves and masks, but now we also fear being infected with the coronavirus while visiting different homes. So we are more cautious than before.”She wears a mask, uses sanitisers, avoids direct contact and maintains distance from people while visiting an old-age home for the treatment of the elderly there.
Dr Anil Kumar Yadav of Health At Home highlights that safety precautions are needed not only to avoid infection at workplace but also to ensure one’s own family members are safe. He shares, “Family members of both patients and doctors want to be secure amid this pandemic. We are receiving fewer calls for home visits maybe due to fear that the visiting doctor would also be infected.”
Visiting as per need
Doctors are making house calls only after studying patients’ health condition and background.
Earlier they used to visit homes mostly for bed-ridden, chronic or geriatric patients. But now they are doing house calls for treatment of minor pains and diseases in children and orthopaedic patients too.
Dr Yadav adds, “We do house calls after reviewing the history of the patients’ health condition and background. If we find travel record of any of the family members of the patient, we take special precautions for us too like PPE while on visits.”
Dr Suwal says, “I have been visiting the old-age home only because there are chronic patients who can’t visit the hospital.”
Medical officers are providing home service for people within the Ring Road, but in the lockdown they are going as far as four kilometres out of Ring Road. Dr Karki shares, “We make house calls with a team of doctors and nurses fully prepared.”
Basanta Baksi from Shantinagar, who called doctors to treat his aunt’s headache, shares, “Doctors visited my home, treated my aunt and kept updating on her condition even after checkup.”
Though it was expensive than a general OPD checkup, he called the home service “reasonable at present”.
A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 14, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.