Non-communicable disease management in vulnerable patients during Covid-19
It is now well established that non-communicable diseases (NCD), like diabetes mellitus, hypertension,, respiratory and heart disease, particularly among the elderly, increase the susceptibility to COVID-19 disease. Mortality in 60%-90% of the COVID-19 cases is attributed to either one or more of these comorbidities. However, healthcare management for control of COVID-19 involves public health and policy decisions that may critically undermine the existing health needs of the most vulnerable NCD patients. Temporary closure of outpatient health facilities in some secondary and tertiary care hospitals have deprived millions of NCD patients of their regular medication and diagnostic health needs. The lack of robust primary healthcare facilities in most states, and the failure to maintain physical distancing norms due to inadequate infrastructure is also problematic. In the absence of effective public health interventions, socioeconomically vulnerable patients are likely to become non-adherent increasing manifold their risk of disease complications. In this context, the feasibility of dispensing longer than usual drug refills for chronic NCD conditions at functional government health facilities, home delivery of essential drugs, running dedicated NCD clinics at PHCs, and utilisation of telemedicine opportunities for care and support to patients warrant aggressive exploration. Keywords: Covid-19, NCDs, Medical ethics, epidemic, India
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