Small clinics still wary of opening
Many doctors have decided to wait till city achieves significant vaccination cover
Though COVID-19 cases in Bengaluru appear to be on the wane, and the government has relaxed lockdown restrictions from Monday till June 21, general physicians, dentists, ophthalmologists, and paediatricians who had shut their clinics for over a month have said it may take a few weeks to return to normality.
According to Sudarshan Sajjan, secretary of the Indian Dental Association-Bengaluru, concerns continue to persist over close contact with patients. “We have let individual practitioners take a call. Though most of the doctors are fully vaccinated, their families are not. Many have decided to wait till the city achieves significant vaccination cover; if not, at least till their families are vaccinated,” he said.
Similar concerns persist among other medical practitioners as well, especially among those who are senior citizens, have co-morbidities, or who have elderly family members living with them. Prakash C. Rao, a general physician with a clinic at Yeshwantpur for over 40 years, closed his practice during the second wave. “I am 68 years old, diabetic, and have an octogenarian mother at home. I now consult over the phone and online. I have no plans to open the clinic yet,” he said.
Most general physicians have moved their practices online, which many patients also seem to prefer. “I have kept my clinic open all through the lockdown. But patients preferred to consult over the phone. Throughout May, we were extremely busy with hundreds of teleconsultation calls every day,” said Mahesh, who runs a clinic at Chandra Layout.
However, the poorer sections of society not well versed with online consultations seem to be left high and dry. Sunita, who works as a domestic help, suffers from thyroid problems, but has not been able to get proper relief for the past one month. “I cannot afford to go to a big nursing home or hospital, nor do I want to go for fear of exposing myself to COVID-19,” she said.
Many paediatric clinics in residential areas have also remained closed. “It was a struggle to get proper care for my three-year-old son when he developed a fever. Most of the clinics were closed, forcing us to go to a big hospital, despite fears of exposure to the virus,” said Vidya N., a resident of Malleswaram.
Y.L. Rajashekar, president of the Karnataka Ophthalmic Society, said eye clinics would gradually start opening up over the next two weeks, taking all precautions to avoid contact. However, he said nearly 90 hospitals had run into severe losses owing to the closure during the second wave and were up for sale.
C.V. Sreenivas, president of the association of Otolaryngologists, Bengaluru, said ENT doctors faced the most risk of contracting the infection, but had decided to open in the coming weeks. “Many will likely open up in the coming weeks. Based on how the unlocking pans out, the rest will also open up,” he said.