I recently saw an ad published by a prominent private hospital indicating that they will not be seeing patients who have symptoms and signs including:
– Fever, coughing, running nose and shortness of breath or;
– Person with recent travel history (within the last 14 days) and
– Persons who have been in contact with other persons who have recent travel history or persons who have been diagnosed with COVID-19
Are we as a people are willing to accept this?
Morally obligated to treat
As health care providers there is a moral obligation, we have to every single person that comes to our facility for treatment. We cannot and should not turn them away based on how they look, act, talk or what symptoms they have. We have to operate at a higher standard of care and compassion toward people and be an example to the rest of society as to how to treat a person when they are ill. We are expected to have higher level of understanding of disease processes and act according to the guidelines and evidence. So, for example, when persons did not understand that HIV was only transmitted through intimate contact and ran from anyone infected, it was up to the more knowledgeable scientists to interact with these persons humanely and to encourage others to follow. Similarly, in our current situation with COVID-19 getting all the press, our responsibility is to join the fight against stigma and undue shunning of people. Yet this facility is using the press to publicly and blatantly state that they want nothing to do with these patients, despite the overwhelming evidence indicating that simple precautions can protect you from contracting this virus.
There ad indicated that they do not have the appropriate facilities to manage, well I am going to challenge this at every level. My practice, JAXIN, is small and only two years old, but in light of this pandemic we recognize that we will need an isolation area to see and treat all patients with respiratory illness, while ensuring the safety and protection of our staff and other patients. We have therefore decided to build a room in our facility to accommodate this. So, since they are much larger, much older, much more profitable, much more equipped, I am simply going to say, if we can, they can. The question is therefore, do they want to? Or better yet, is it worth it to them? Well none of the above should matter, the move to provide accommodation, should come from a moral obligation.
What about, asthmatics and other persons with pre-existing lung diseases?
I could not help but think about all the other patients who will need treatment for respiratory related illnesses who are not infected with the COVID -19 virus. It is not difficult for an asthmatic to suffer and attack due to infection with a common cold which exacerbates their condition and would cause them to present with fever, coughing, running nose and shortness of breath. Are all these patients now to go to the public hospitals to receive attention? With our public system already indicating an inability to cope with the potential rise in admissions and with our private facilities accounting for 55% of our countries medical care, how can we start to turn away our patients to already congested facilities? This is not acceptable.
As a medical doctor this goes against our oath!
As a medical doctor this stance goes against our oath! It is medically unethical to refuse treatment to any person. We have taken an oath which includes the following:
“I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.”
“I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.”
This is what we signed up for, this is what we got ourselves into, this is our calling, this is our purpose. A time like this is when we get to step into our position and take the lead, (as I write this I have goose bumps), we were made to be a part of the solution in a crisis such as this. My fellow doctors and all health-care facilities please step into your position, apply your knowledge for the benefit of the sick by all measures necessary and take the lead!