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Patients with chronic conditions in a fix

by Istiak Ahmed Shimul

In his 70s and with a chronic kidney disease, port city resident Rupak Paul has a lot to worry about as it is. But for this week, his worries multiplied after the government declared the countrywide lockdown. Rupak has an appointment with a nephrologist today, but as of yesterday, he wasn’t sure if it’s going to take place.

“The consultant is really busy. I managed to get the appointment after trying for 10 consecutive days,” Rupak told this correspondent. Now he’s worried whether the doctor’s chamber will be open during the lockdown, or whether he will have to sit for the consultation virtually or over phone, or whether he’ll have to contact another doctor altogether.

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The same can be said of every other chronic disease patient across the city. For  them, every week’s a matter of life and death, and whether they get access to their doctors or not may determine everything.

Doctors said they’re trying their best to come up with alternate solutions during such dire times. While talking to The Daily Star, they have assured that they will either attend patients at their private chambers for limited hours, or resort to telemedicine services for duration of the lockdown.

“I exclusively did telemedicine during last year’s lockdown, but have decided to keep my chamber open for limited hours this time around. We understand the importance of in-person consultations,” said Farida Yasmin Sumi, assistant professor of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH).

But she admitted it’ll be a difficult task for patients to get to the chambers during lockdown, due to the government-imposed limitations on public transportation.

Retired-CMCH teacher Dr Mujibul Haque Khan, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, also told The Daily Star that he will be available for telemedicine sessions during the lockdown so that no patient has to suffer without treatment.

The leaders of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), Chattogram chapter, echoed the same. They said they have provided a list of doctors and their contact numbers in the organisation’s webpage and verified Facebook page, so that patients get access to emergency telemedicine service during the lockdown.

“We did the same in the last year during the lockdown. Patients appreciated the initiative a lot,” said Dr Faisal Iqbal Chowdhury, general secretary of BMA Chattogram. “I would like to assure patients that the doctors’ community is always by their side in their time of need.”

Praising the initiative, Nazrul Islam, a resident of Patiya upazila in Chattogram, who has been suffering from irritable bowl syndrome, a chronic disease of stomach, said he hopes contacts of gastroenterologist will be included in the list, which will benefit many patients like him.

“As public transport will not ply, we will not be able to go to the city during lockdown. Telemedicine service could be the saving grace for us,” he said.

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