The COVID- 19 Pandemic & Continuum of Cancer Care
The new Coronavirus disease is attacking our societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods in an unprecedented fashion. Potentially dire longer-term effects are expected to happen on the global economy and individual countries. India is definitely not an exception to this crisis. Fortunately, the spread of Coronavirus in India is limited as of now as compared to countries like US and Italy, which are severely impacted. Can we be complacent with it?
In India, the appropriate measure of Lockdown was taken well in time to be able to restrict community spread of the Coronavirus and the government of India has been fairly successful so far. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) predicts over 13 lakh cases in India till May 2020 and endorses 'Social Distancing' as the measure that alone has a capacity to reduce the spread by almost 62%. However, most of us are in a dilemma whether to choose between 'Prescribed Social Distancing' by the government of India or 'Sacrificing Income / Livelihood'; as the number of cases are growing in major cities of India and the length of Lockdown is becoming increasingly unpredictable.
Life has never been such an excruciatingly distressful before. It has become all the more tougher for a section of society to whom I relate very closely. There are over 10 lakh cancer patients in India in different phases of their treatments. Some were operated or waiting to be operated, some were on chemotherapy or radiation therapy and waiting to complete it as per their predefined schedule. It is a pervasive fact that they are largely immuno-compromised due to their disease status and ongoing treatments which make them susceptible to various infections, including the lethal COVID-19. Access to their 'Treating Oncologist' which is an inescapable necessity that is all the more prominent in this scenario, itself has been compromised. They can not simply walk through to their doctors due to the obstacles of various kinds on the roads. Some of them are on palliative treatments and usually in an unbearable pain that needs doctor interventions. Unfortunately, the brutal pandemic is restricting both doctors and patients in reaching each other.
As the responsible Oncologists, we at MOC are beginning with a new initiative to overcome the challenges encountered by our cancer patients with the help of the technology. We are introducing a new feature, 'Doctor On Screen". It is an innovative digital platform that can help patients access us on a click of a button. This platform is expected to help us conduct the Digital Consultation while the physical OPDs and consulting patients is a forbidden fruit, at least for some time. Patients can interact with us by appointment using their mobile phones, by accessing the link received from us. They can receive treatment advice, treatment deferment protocols in selected cases and resolution to their queries and treatment-related issues. We can suggest them the schedule to complete their chemotherapy during this consultation itself.
We understand that delay in treatment of the cancer patients is as good as depriving them of a treatment. It can negatively impact treatment outcomes eventually. With this initiative, we wish to fulfill our commitment to a continuum of cancer care, in the time of crisis called COVID-19.
Dr. Vashishth Maniar
Consultant Medical Oncologist
Mumbai Oncocare Centre
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