Fear of Covid-19 could be costing more lives - Specialist

BY: Isaac Yeboah
A taxicab being shepherded off the road to return home by armed policemen during the partial lockdown imposed on Accra
A taxicab being shepherded off the road to return home by armed policemen during the partial lockdown imposed on Accra

A Senior Specialist Physician/Nephrologist at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Dr. Elliot Koranteng Tannor is suggesting Ghana could be losing more lives to other medical conditions than COVID-19 as a result of the fear for the latter.

This, he says, could result from some of the measures implemented to curb the spread of Covid-19 which he argues may have been detrimental to patients suffering from other medical conditions with higher case fatality in the country.

In an opinion piece he penned to Graphic Online, Dr. Tannor says “…though COVID-19 is devastating, it is possible that we are losing more lives in Ghana to other medical conditions from the COVID-19-induced restrictions and phobias.”

According to him the restrictions and protocols set in our hospitals affect the clinical management of patients who present with other conditions with symptoms similar to COVID-19, explaining that by the COVID-19 screening protocols, most patients who report with symptoms meeting the criteria for COVID-19 are isolated and managed until the COVID-19 test results are in, which normally takes between three to seven days.

“The problem with the protocol is that isolated patients may not get access to appropriate specialist services as there aren’t adequate personal protective equipment for the specialists to manage patients appropriately. The specialists may not review such patients leading to poor management which may result in death. Again, those who are not infected are at risk of infection whilst waiting in isolation with potentially infected COVID-19 patients.”

He said generally there may be a neglect of other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and chronic kidney disease leading to devastating complications such as stroke, heart failure and heart attacks.

“In Ghana, we were on partial lockdown at a point. During the partial lockdown people were asked to stay home and come out only for essential services such as food and healthcare. Public transport was not available and most clinics had also shut down their outpatients’ clinics and were running only emergencies. With the shutdown of outpatient’s clinics, most people who had to come in for appointments and refill their chronic medications were not able to do so. These patients are now coming in very sick with very high blood pressures and high blood sugars with devastating complications as a result of the running out of their chronic medications. Some come in very sick on admission and unfortunately will have to be in isolation for some days pending test results with variable outcomes.

“A case in question was when a 45-year-old patient with diabetes and hypertension who came in with a chest infection (pneumonia) and COVID-19 justifiably had to be ruled out. He was kept in isolation for about a week pending his test results during which he was sub optimally treated. By the time his test came back negative, he had deteriorated, as he was not getting the best of care in the holding area and unfortunately died from severe infections after a few days with kidney injury.

“My question is, could this gentleman have survived this predicament if he had been reviewed by specialists from day one? Would he have died if there was no COVID-19 to worry about? Your guess is as good as mine.”

Dr. Tannor concludes that measures put in place to curb the spread of the new coronavirus disease should not be detrimental to patients suffering from other medical conditions.

You can read his full article here