Worry as those with non-communicable diseases not seeking treatment

Patients with uncontrolled non-communicable diseases may need emergency treatment. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Experts have voiced concern over a dip in the number of people seeking treatment for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at hospitals amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Christopher Lee, an infectious disease consultant and a former deputy director-general of health, said there was a worry that people with NCDs may not be taking care of their health or seeking treatment during the movement control order (MCO) period for fear of Covid-19.

NCDs mainly refer to cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

Lee expected many patients with NCDs to be admitted into emergency departments in the near future, ”with their symptoms way out of control”, once the MCO is relaxed.

Dr Christopher Lee

”I think we need to prepare for that,” he told a discussion updating the clinical aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic, organised by the health ministry.

Dr Ng Chiu Wan, a professor of public health with Universiti Malaya’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, said official figures showed that most of the healthcare resources were currently being prioritised for Covid-19 care.

She said about RM1 billion is currently being invested in the prevention and treatment of the disease.

“A lot of appointments have been postponed. Elective surgical procedures and tests have also been postponed.”

She also said it was possible the MCO may have reduced access to care for many patients, especially those with NCDs.

Dr Mahathar Abd Wahab, a consultant emergency physician and the head of the Emergency and Trauma Department at Hospital Kuala Lumpur, said there was a drop in the number of cases being admitted at the department since the start of the MCO.

He said usually 600 to 800 cases would be treated at the department every day.

“The number dropped by half to about 300 people a day during the MCO.”

Meanwhile, he also said it was important to establish a “new normal” in emergency departments and also other departments in hospitals in light of the pandemic, which would change how the staff managed and treated patients.

This would include permanently using personal protective equipment (PPE) and also changing the type of examination methods being utilised.

“We have to get away from the conventional method in managing patients. We have to use tools to minimise the risk of exposure to Covid-19, for both patients and healthcare workers.”

As an example, he spoke of using more ultrasound devices to diagnose patients, replacing more common methods such as X-rays.

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