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Patients must not postpone visits to the clinic if they develop cardiac symptoms

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Dr Prathap Kumar N, CMD and the Chief Interventional Cardiologist of Meditrina Group of Hospitals talks about cardiac care during COVID-19 pandemic, measures to be taken, and the facilities provided at the hospital, in interaction with Sanjiv Das

What extra precautionary measures should a cardiac patient take at a time when the country is under lockdown?

The novel coronavirus of COVID-19 attacks the lungs. If lungs get affected, the heart has to function more intensely to pump oxygen-rich blood through the arteries to various parts of the body. So, the overworked heart is extremely dangerous for people with a history of heart ailments. To avoid such situations, the patients must follow the regular medications which will help the patients in keeping diabetes and hypertension in check.

In addition, eating a healthy and nutrient-rich diet and devoting time for exercise daily is extremely important to ensure overall well-being and stronger immunity. And, most importantly, the patients must not postpone visits to the clinic if they develop cardiac symptoms. They should contact the doctors whom they are regularly consulting with. In case of emergency, one must contact the nearby cardiac centre immediately.

What facilities are Meditrina Group of Hospitals providing to cardiac patients during this lockdown?

During the ongoing lockdown, our doctors are working tirelessly to offer cardiac care facilities to the patients at all our hospitals across India. If a COVID-19 positive patient comes to our hospitals after suffering a heart attack, we begin the medication with thrombolytic drugs. If the condition of that patient is critical, our doctors equipped with personal protection equipment perform angioplasty. Non-critical non-COVID-19 patients are sent back home after medication. The patients with comorbidity are referred to other departments for treatment. In addition, we have made our hospital ICUs available to the cardiac patients in Kerala who are unable to find a bed in government hospitals due to patients’ overflow.

Is Meditrina providing telemedicine facilities to its patients?

Yes, we have introduced our telemedicine services during the first phase of lockdown in March. The aim is to help the COVID-19 patients and suspects in self-quarantine, although the telemedicine services are open to all our existing patients. The service is available for three hours a day in the morning. All the specialist doctors in our hospitals are available for consultation during that time. The telemedicine services for the new patients are made available only after the careful evaluation of all the reports by the doctors.

Do you think telemedicine can play a huge role in counselling cardiac patients in the long run?

Well, it’s extremely difficult to come to that conclusion at the moment. Diagnosing and treating a new patient through telemedicine is extremely challenging, as the process doesn’t factor in some important clinical examinations. The patients who are in the regular follow-ups with the doctors can only be advised by telemedicine. So, the applicability of telemedicine has its own limitations.

What type of investments is Meditrina looking out for the next five years? Any new ventures in India and abroad?

We have set up advanced cardiac care facilities within Government Civil Hospitals in Ambala, Panchkula, Faridabad and Gurugram, following the PPP model. The purpose was to offer affordable cardiac care facilities to underprivileged sections of society. The success of the Haryana model has boosted our confidence to replicate the PPP model in other parts of the country. Once the situation normalises, we’ll work on the expansion plan in other states.

Beyond India, we are successfully running our cardiac care centre in Maldives. Being a country of islands, Maldives is a difficult topography and the lack of the quality cardiac care centre posed a serious healthcare challenge to the citizens of the country as well as to the tourists.

Our cardiac care centre set up in 2016 made quality treatment available to the people of the country and vacationers across the world. We are planning to take this model to other countries like Mauritius, Madagascar, etc. where there is an absence of cardiac care facilities.

What will be your recovery strategies post lockdown?  

There is uncertainty in every sector at the moment. Healthcare sector is no exception. Our strategy at the moment is to assess the impact of the lockdown on the healthcare sector and strategise the plan of action accordingly.

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