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Picture for illustrative purposes Image Credit: Pixabay

Abu Dhabi: Residents across the UAE are avoiding medical treatments and follow-ups amid the coronavirus outbreak, with the aim of limiting exposure to infected patients.

Gulf News has found that there is also a fair bit of confusion regarding which treatments should be pursued without delay.

“My father-in-law had a fall two weeks ago, and had surgery to repair the resulting hip fracture. Soon after, the National Sterilisation Programme began on the weekend. Since then, we’ve been worried about taking him to the hospital for his physiotherapy sessions, especially as he is recovering from cancer and is on immunosuppressants,” Mohamed N, a Bangladeshi expat, told Gulf News.

“We know the physiotherapy is important, but we know there have been cases of COVID-19 at the Dubai-based hospital where he underwent surgery,” he added.

Another 63-year-old patient in the capital said he hasn’t sought dental treatment despite regular bleeding in his molars.

“I have quite a bit of pain when eating, and there is frequent bleeding. But I’ve seen the overall advice to put off non-urgent dental care for the moment, so I am not sure what to do,” he said.

The mother of an 18-month-old has also put off getting vaccinations for her daughter.

“To be honest, I don’t know if it is worth the risk taking my daughter to a clinic, given that we have been staying at home for nearly a month now. Her vaccination was due in March, and at the time, I thought I would wait for the spring break to finish. But schools have remained closed, and I just don’t know what I should do,” the 33-year-old mother said.

A range of medical concerns like these are currently being put on the back burner. The extension of the UAE’s National Sterilisation Programme has also made residents anxious about the safety of even venturing outside their homes with unwell family members.

What should you do?

Doctors have however urged patients to first take advantage of the numerous telemedicine consultations that are currently available.

“When in doubt, you can avail of a telemedicine consultation service to see if your condition or concern requires [an urgent] hospital visit,” advised Dr. Mohammed Ajeaidi, family medicine specialist at Medcare Medical Centre - Al Rashidiya.

Physiotherapy for a cancer patient

“It is important to start the physiotherapy immediately after such major surgery, to ensure the mobility of the patient. However, it is not necessary to have all the sessions in the hospital. The first session can be in the hospital with instructions of what do at home. The remaining sessions can be done at home, individually or with the help of family members,” Dr Ajeaidi said.

Vaccinations for children

On the other hand, certain hospital visits should not be delayed.

“It is not advisable to delay the vaccination, as this can put the child at risk of attracting any of the infectious diseases covered by the vaccination. There is no concern if the child has missed her scheduled date; the important [thing is to get the vaccination as soon as possible],” the doctor said.

Dr Mohammad Arif, internal medicine specialist at Aster Hospital Mankhool, added that a vaccination-related visit should not take too long, so there is no reason to delay it.

Dental treatment

Health authorities have said that non-urgent dental treatment should be delayed for the moment, especially many procedures generate aerosol that can make the coronavirus airborne and more easily transmissible. Nevertheless, this does not include cases with severe toothache, dental infection and active bleeding.

“These cases need to be seen by a dentist soon. Delaying care can lead to unwanted complications,” Dr Ajeaidi said.

Dr Arif added that Aster facilities are currently conducting blood tests at patients’ homes.

“Even if the patient is not in pain, it is a good idea to get a blood test. If the results of the complete blood count and coagulation profile are not normal, he should seek treatment immediately,” the doctor explained.

Overall advice

Concerns about visiting medical facilities are not completely unfounded, the doctors said.

“Almost all elective procedures or surgeries need to be postponed, and many simple conditions can be managed with home remedies, rest and over-the-count medication. So try to avail of telemedicine consultations, especially in the case of medication refills,” Dr Ajeaidi said.

He also recommended patients follow general precautionary measures when visiting a hospital or clinic.

  • Precautionary measures when visiting a doctor
  • Use masks and gloves when leaving the home.
  • Maintain social distancing of 1.8 metres from other people.
  • Try to go to the clinic alone whenever possible to reduce the chance of exposure to others.
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after touching surfaces, and avoid touching surfaces unnecessarily.
  • Avoid wandering around in a medical facility.
  • Seek treatment for the most urgent concerns, and check if you can carry out follow-ups via telemedicine.