Stigma attached to Covid can cause more deaths: AIIMS head

NEW DELHI: Stigmatising of Covid-19 patients and their families is resulting in cases turning up late at hospitals, with heightened breathlessness, and this could mean increased morbidity and mortality, Dr Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), said on Thursday.
According to Dr Guleria, the disease can be treated successfully in most cases and 80% of patients need only supportive care, while 20% would require enhanced attention and of these only 5% need ventilators. He said that 15% of the more serious patients essentially need enhanced oxygen support rather than ventilators and the government’s capacity-building had kept this in mind.
He urged people to support patients and their families instead of stigmatising them. “We should look at how we can support Covid-19 patients and their families. More people need to come for testing (on developing symptoms),” he said. The government said healthcare facilities for treating patients have increased by 3.5 times in the last one month.
While 90-95% of Covid-19 patients recover, the mortality rate from the disease is rising due to the stigma attached to the disease, Dr Guleria said. AIIMS is leading clinical management of the infection across the country. So far, over 700 people have died due to the novel coronavirus in India. He said patients who recover should be honoured as they have won a battle, adding that it is not easy to even be in isolation, surrounded by doctors and nurses with full-body hazmat suits.
“We have to remember that this is a disease which is not that serious. Infected patients are approaching healthcare facilities at a later stage which is leading to increased mortality,” Dr Guleria said.
At present, there are a total of 3,773 Covid-dedicated facilities, which include 1.9 lakh isolation beds for severe and critical cases, 24,644 ICU beds and 12,371 ventilators. Besides, there are over 1.6 lakh isolation beds in Covid care centres which act as the primary leg of care.

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