It is not a granny’s tale. I am told it is a reality. In the olden days, the Hakim (practitioners of Unani medicine) called to examine an ailing, veiled woman could not have held her wrist to read the pulse. So, a thread was tied on the patient’s wrist and the Hakim, sitting at some distance, would hold the other end of the thread to feel the vibration.
True or false, but I am told that the physician would correctly diagnose the ailment and would accordingly treat the woman.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic the remote-like method of examining a patient seems to have staged a comeback.
I do not know about other places, but in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, the largest state of India, some practitioners of modern medicine, that is, MBBS doctors, are treating their patients like those Hakims of yesteryears.
Recently, a young man took his two children to their regular doctor for treatment of rashes and boils that had erupted during the recent harsh summer season.
Just like the good old days of the Hakims, this practitioner in modern medicine cast a cursory look at the skin afflictions and asked if the kids had any other medical problems. Minutes later, the Compounder brought from inside the clinic the prescribed medicines and collected their price
As in the past, just as he was about to walk into the clinic with the kids, the doctor’s assistant stopped them. In a stern voice, he commanded them to stay where they were. The ‘Compounder’ as they are commonly known, got him to sign a form declaring that they were all free from Coronavirus.
Their temperatures were recorded; the fee, which had been more than doubled, charged, and then plastic face-shields given to all three at an inflated price.
Assuming that all the formalities had been completed, the trio tried to step into the clinic but was yet again curtly stopped. The Compounder took them to a small, open place, where they saw the doctor sitting in a chair at a distance.
Difficult to ascertain gender and identity
Since the doctor was wearing an all-white PPE kit, it became difficult to ascertain gender and identity. Only when the doctor spoke out, the parent found that he had come to the right person, a lady physician.
However, the funny aspect was that notwithstanding the entire exercise, the father was asked to show the boils and the rashes of the children from that distance.
Just like the good old days of the Hakims, this practitioner in modern medicine cast a cursory look at the skin afflictions and asked if the kids had any other medical problems. Minutes later, the Compounder brought from inside the clinic the prescribed medicines and collected their price.
In all, says the parent, he shelled out two-and-half times the charges, including the highly inflated costs of the plastic shields. However, happily, the kids were cured of the problem.
The current COVID-19 era is bringing to fore strange situations — both tragic and comical.
I have come across another case of what may be called ‘virtual telescopic diagnosis’. A senior citizen needed to consult an ENT doctor for his growing deafness. His son sought an appointment with a leading specialist but the appointment was turned down. Instead, he was advised to pay up the fee upfront, brief the physician about the patient’s problems and collect the medicines.
It seems, due to the pandemic, many of today’s doctors have surpassed even the Hakims because they do not even tie a thread to read the pulse of the patient.
Is the fear of COVID-19 deterring medical practitioners from following their professional protocols?
Such a situation is one of the several aberrations that have befallen society as a result of the epidemic.
— Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.