Home / News / India /  Lockdown failed non-covid patients

The jury is still out on whether India’s covid-19 lockdown, the world’s strictest, helped control the spread of the virus. But growing evidence shows the lockdown led to an increased death risk for those suffering from other chronic health conditions.

A new working paper by Pascaline Dupas and Radhika Jain of Stanford University focuses on dialysis care in Rajasthan in the four months after the lockdown began on 25 March. The mortality hazard among such patients rose sharply as they found it tougher to access health services, the paper finds.

Mortality among the patients on dialysis increased 64% between March and May. The overall fatality rate during April-July was 22% higher than March, and 25% higher than the same period in 2019.

These findings are based on phone surveys of households of dialysis patients who filed insurance claims under a government scheme in Rajasthan.

The higher death risk is unlikely to be due to coronavirus infections, as only four patients in the sample of over 2,000 had tested positive, the authors argue. Besides, the largest increase in mortality was in May, whereas the virus kept on spreading fast even later.

Dupas and Jain attribute the deaths to the lockdown-related disruptions to dialysis care—over 62% of the patients said so. Travel became difficult as transport was not available and patients needed official approvals to be allowed to travel to hospital. Patients also found hospitals closed, were refused service, or were asked to pay more than usual.

The authors find that although the lockdown was for everyone, certain disadvantaged groups such as those from lower-caste and poorer households were more severely affected with such disruptions. Women, too, were hit more, but that was because families sought care for them less often than they did for male patients.

Also read: Locked out of critical care: Covid-19 lockdown and non-Covid mortality

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