Home care for COVID patients gets acceptable


Kasaragod district leads the way with 1,000 patients completing their infective phase

Thiruvananthapuram

Home care of asymptomatic COVID-19 patients is becoming more acceptable in the State. As Kerala braces itself to get through the epidemic phase when hospitals could be overwhelmed, this perhaps may not be an option but a necessity.

Kasaragod district, where nearly a 1,000 asymptomatic COVID patients have successfully completed their infective phase and quarantine at home without any issues, has set a model for the rest of the districts to emulate.

With nearly 80 % of COVID-19 patients in the State turning out to be asymptomatic, managing these huge numbers within hospitals was beginning to strain the health system resources, infrastructure and human resources requirement.

Kasaragod was the first district to get on board, as soon as the State issued the advisory on home care for asymptomatic positive patients on August 7.

“Kasaragod, in reality, had few options. The district’s infrastructure and human resources in health is woefully inadequate and despite the initial premise of 4,000-5,000 beds, not more than 1,500 beds could be arranged in COVID first line treatment centres (CFLTCs). If we had not initiated home care, the system would not have held up,” a senior Health official said.

“We started home care initially in places where we had more doctors and field staff, so that the monitoring of patients at home would be smooth. All our initial apprehensions were set to rest when we found that patients were happier and could be managed well at home. Transition to home care has been smooth because of the perfect coordination and cooperation of the district administration and LSG support,” District Medical Officer, Kasaragod, A. V. Ramdas said.

Doctors would call up patients daily to check on them. Pulse Oximeters were made available by the local bodies and patients were taught to self monitor. To avoid confusions, they were asked to take pictures of the oxygen readings and send it on Whatsapp to doctors, he added.

So far, only about 20 patients who were apprehensive of remaining at home or developing symptoms had to be moved to CFLTCs, while over 300 who were in home care have since tested negative and completed their quarantine also.

“Apart from the huge savings on resources, we found that the home environment was much better for the mental well-being of the patient. They were less tense as they were not far away from their family, could enjoy all home comforts and could have food of their choice,” one of the doctors in the district said.

Other districts too have begun to slowly push the home care concept, as the pressure on CFLTCs and the shortage of human resources at all these centres are beginning to strain the system.

At Thiruvananthapuram, which has close to 5,000 active cases and where 2,158 beds out of the 3,452 CFLTC beds are occupied (as on Wednesday), the district health administration has been encouraging home care. Some 500 patients have so far been accommodated at their own home

“People fear the stigma and also that local people might create problems. But then there has been so much negative publicity about the lack of facilities at CFLTCs that home care has become more acceptable now. But soon, we may have no other choice,” a Health official said.

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