Dental, eye, ENT patients suffer | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 04, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:46 AM, July 04, 2020

Dental, eye, ENT patients suffer

Amid Covid pandemic most pvt chambers, dental clinics shut; eye and ENT hospitals now provide only emergency services

When Rejaul Karim visited his dentist late February with problems in one of his teeth, the doctor, upon an x-ray, advised him to have the tooth extracted.

Rejaul was preparing for the dental operation when the novel coronavirus hit the country. Subsequently, the government declared a shutdown to contain the spread of the deadly virus. His dentist's chamber at the capital's Dhanmondi too was closed.

"Actually, I didn't dare go to a doctor's chamber out of fear of being infected with the virus," said the 60-year-old resident of Azimpur area.

With no option left, he consulted another dentist over the phone, who recommended an x-ray again.

"I don't know what to do," he said a few days back.

Like Rejaul, many patients are deprived of crucial treatment of diseases related to teeth, eyes and other ENT (ear, nose and throat) as most dental clinics and private chambers have been closed for more than three months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many patients prefer not to go to doctor's chambers or hospitals out of fear of getting infected with the virus unless it's an emergency. The same is the case for many doctors who stopped going to their private chambers.

As a result, the number of patients at hospitals and chambers came down sharply although some doctors have resumed their services of late. Even an eye hospital in the capital had to cut the salary of their staffers by 40 to 50 percent.

Dr Md Shafi Khan, director of Lions Eye Institute and Hospital in the capital, said people get infected with Covid-19 through nose, mouth, throat and eye, and so, the doctors who are dealing with these parts are more vulnerable.

Besides, there could be asymptomatic cases too, which intensifies the doctors' exposure, he told The Daily Star on June 28.

Therefore, most eye hospitals are providing only emergency services for the last two to three months and only now they have started to open gradually taking necessary protective measures, he said. But the number of patients is very low, especially those coming from outside Dhaka, he said.

Lions hospital used to give outdoor treatment to more than 250 patients daily before the pandemic, but the number has decreased to around 50.

"We used to carry out 10 to 12 operations daily [six days a week], but now we are doing it once a week," he said.

On the other hand, they would do camp surgeries for 70 to 80 patients a month, which remains suspended now, Shafi Khan said.

As the number of patients came down sharply, the income of the hospital also decreased, he said, adding that they were thus forced to cut the salary of doctors and staffers.

The situation is similar in most of the eye hospitals, he said, adding, "If the pandemic prolongs further, the financial situation of private eye hospitals and chambers of ophthalmologists will face a severe setback."

He said regular patients, especially from outside Dhaka, cannot come to the eye specialists due to the outbreak. And some patients are even avoiding follow-ups, which is harmful for them.

Idris Ali, an ENT consultant of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), also shared a similar experience.

He said the doctors dealing with ENT diseases are at the highest risk and around 20 ENT doctors he knows have already been infected with the virus.

"As a result, most of the ENT consultants have stopped practising at private chambers," he said.

The number of outdoor patients at the ENT section was 600 to 650 usually and it came down to 100 to 150. "Actually people fear to come to hospital as our hospital also conducts Covid-19 tests," he said.

"For the sake of my patients, I keep my private chamber open for three days a week. But the number of patients is low."

Ruhul Amin Sujon, a dentist who is a private practitioner, said some 300 dentists used to practise at different clinics at the city's Dhanmondi and Jigatola area.

But only around 15 doctors have resumed their services lately, he said.

Sujon, also a lecturer at Institute of Medical Technology, Dhaka, said there are many patients who need clinical treatment as commonly available medicine like painkillers will not cure those problems. Taking too many painkillers might cause other physical complexities.

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