GPs see major drop in consultations amid Covid-19 pandemic
Durban - A recent poll by a South African pharmaceutical company found a major decline in the number of doctor consultations since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a 90% decrease in cardiology consultations.
The poll - conducted among 40 general practitioners (GPs) in May - was undertaken by cardiovascular medicine provider, Pharma Dynamics, and compared the current number of consultations to previous years.
The company said the results indicated a "worrying trend that could be putting thousands of lives at risk".
Medical consultant to the company, Dr Anna-Marie Grebe, said that "while many with minor ailments may be staying away as a result of the lockdown, the poll shows that even those with life-threatening illnesses were forgoing regular check-ups".
Apart from a general decrease in patient consultations, cardiology consultations had "plummeted by 90%", she said.
The Covid-19 pandemic must not be taken lightly, said Grebe, but one should also not lose sight of the 1,13 billion people with hypertension worldwide, and the 10 million people that died every year from hypertension-related conditions such as stroke, heart failure and renal failure.
"Covid-19 cases and deaths are still growing, and we certainly encourage patients to follow the proper safety protocol related to Covid-19, but patients must not neglect monitoring and treatment of hypertension and its complications.
“If we assume that the prevalence for heart attacks and strokes have remained unchanged, the rapid decline in consultations indicate that many may simply be too scared to go for their regular check-ups out of fear of contracting Covid-19 at a hospital or clinic.”
Some GPs had reported patients suffering fatal heart attacks as a result of opting to remain at home rather than to seek medical attention early on, according to the poll. Doctors feared that should the troubling trend go unchecked, many more could suffer the same fate.
Grebe urged patients with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, to seek immediate care if they experience any symptoms, even if they believed these may be unrelated to their underlying conditions.
Patients with cardiovascular disease should pay particular attention to the following warning signs:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest, arms, shoulders, back, jaw or stomach
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Swelling in ankles, legs or feet
- Feeling bloated with a loss of appetite or nausea
- Fast or irregular resting heartbeat
- Feeling unusually tired, inability to perform routine daily chores.
Diabetes was also a "serious and complex condition", said Grebe. Patients should seek medical help if they presented with:
- Confusion, dizziness, blurry vision and nausea
- Dry mouth and increased thirst
- Feeling unusually shaky, nervous, irritable or anxious
- Chest pain running down the arm
- Sweating, chills and pale, clammy skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Weakness, tiredness
- Tingling of the mouth
- Headache.African News Agency