The rush is missing at the swanky, new out-patient department block at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. On a typical day, at the old OPD space, footfall would be over 10,000. The Covid-19 times have meant that only about half of the usual number of patients turn up to see a doctor. Those patients who are coming to the hospital have to follow strict Covid-19 protocols. “First, they are screened at the entrance. Each floor has several touch-free santiser dispensers, a maximum of five patients are allowed inside lifts, and physical distancing is observed at all counters,” says Dr Anant Naveen Kumar Reddy, duty officer at the OPD.
“We do teleconsultations for our patients, and depending on the severity of their ailment, we ask them to come for physical examination,” says Dr Deepak Gautam, assistant professor, department of orthopaedics, as he attends to a patient in his late 20s. “Despite Covid-19, [many] patients have travelled from places such as Allahabad, Uttarakhand, to come and see us because their ailment is so debilitating, and their access to medical facilities in these places is limited,” he says.
For a hospital at the forefront of the Central government's Covid-19 response, the past few months at AIIMS have been rather hectic, as protocols had to be developed to manage both Covid-19 patients and others. During the lockdown, trauma cases went down, but post unlock, the emergency section of the hospital is seeing cases of road accidents and other injuries. “Elective surgeries are not being encouraged because post-surgery Covid has been found to have high mortality rates,” says Dr Randeep Guleria, director, AIIMS.
Despite the lockdown and Covid-19, essential services at the hospital have not stopped even for a day, says Dr (professor) Aarti Vij, chairperson, media cell and protocol division of AIIMS. “Our cancer services, emergency services, and dialysis services have been going on uninterrupted. For other patients, we have been offering teleconsultation for both follow-ups and new patients, where at the designated time, doctors call up patients,” she says. The country’s premier hospital is also operating a Covid-19 and mental helpline for doctors across the country. It has also been providing an email helpline for queries from both patients and doctors, and has given training in infection control practices to about 13,000 employees.