COVID 19 outbreak was declared a pandemic on 11th March 2020, which put a massive burden on the healthcare system. The demands for intensive care units have also increased drastically in the affected regions and hospitals have struggled to cope up with it. As the entire focus of the healthcare system shifts toward managing the pandemic, it has left a negative impact on the management of other medical conditions.
Dr. Manish Vaish, Director – Neurosurgery, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Vaishali said, “Like most of the specialities, neurosurgery has also been affected due to the pandemic; however, it requires special consideration. Most neurosurgeries are time-critical & a delay in the surgery can result in permanent neurological deficit & sometimes even death. According to a study, there was a 76.25% drop in the OPDs of neuro surgeons & 70.59% less surgeries were performed during COVID times in India.”
“The pandemic has overwhelmed the healthcare system of even the most developed countries and hospitals are required to increase their ICU capacity & respiratory wards both in-terms of beds as well as healthcare professionals. It has been achieved through reconfiguring already existing beds and healthcare professionals, which led to other specialities high & dry. Neurosurgeries has been adversely affected as most elective surgeries were cancelled so that operation theatre staff, ICU staff can attend to most critical care. The OPD services were given a skip for a long time to prevent the spread of COVID infection. Neurosurgeons were faced with multiple challenges such as practicing outside their area of expertise, managing neurosurgical cases with limited resources, moral injuries, & ethical dilemmas to name a few”, added Dr. Vaish.
Reallocation of the resources was not responsible for overwhelmed healthcare systems alone. A large surge in patients & concomitant high infection rates among healthcare professions was also responsible. Around 10% of reported cases in China & Italy were among healthcare professionals. Though neurosurgeons faced multiple challenges, the neurosurgery stream itself has also been affected adversely due to pandemic. Most of the progressive works in the field came to halt in the wake of COVID 19.
Speaking on the effects of COVID 19 on neurosurgery as a stream, Dr. Vaish said, “Neurosurgeons, like any other medical stream, must teach and train others. Teaching, training & research are considered non-essential during the pandemic as most research facilities are focussed on the COVID 19. Academic Institutions have ceased their routine activities to redirect their resources toward COVID 19 related research. Multiple national & international conferences have either been cancelled or postponed affecting the professional development of the neurosurgeons. Trainee neurosurgeons are reallocated to respiratory & emergency wards, which will deprive them of the learning opportunities in routine settings of an OPD & operation theatres halting their professional growth temporarily. According to a survey, almost 58% neurosurgeons agreed that research in the field was severely affected due to pandemic.”
“Even in normal times, around 5 million people are affected per year due to a deficit in essential neurosurgical care. The demand is likely to increase with lessen capacity to deliver on the already burdened healthcare system. In the developing countries, the work of neurosurgeons is hard in the best times and this pandemic will leave a huge backlog of untreated, delayed diagnosed & elective surgeries to deal with.”, Dr Vaish added.