Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Small Clinics

At small clinics and rural hospitals, the challenges of fighting COVID-19 can be particularly intense. As the COVID-19 pandemic escalated in the third week of March, small clinics and hospitals experienced an enormous decline. The third week of March 2020, was when thousands of new COVID-19 cases surfaced, becoming commonplace in certain parts of the country. Small clinics, hospitals and healthcare facilities underwent a huge financial strain as many elective procedures were deferred.

With major hospitals all over the country, primarily focusing on treating patients who have tested positive with the coronavirus disease, secondary care hospitals, dispensaries and mohalla clinics have taken the lead in providing health care services to patients with health problems other than Covid-19. Despite this, these small clinics have been experiencing a huge downfall due to various factors.

Severe shortage of support staff.
A severe shortage of support staff in the initial stages of the lockdown following the COVID-19 threat, small clinics and hospitals, have inadvertently come to a halt. The shutdown of such facilities has left numerous patients with minor illnesses and non-emergency medical needs in the lurch.
Even though government-run primary health centres (PHCs) remained open, most people are hesitant towards visiting such facilities considering the COVID-19 scenario. Keeping that aside, PHCs and other government healthcare facilities are already preoccupied with monitoring the situation and attending to patients experiencing the coronavirus symptoms on a regular basis.

The impact on India’s medical devices industry has contributed to the dissolution of small clinics.
The medical devices industry in India has also taken a hit. India usually imports all of its disposables, consumables and capital equipment including orthopaedic implants, syringes, bandages, gloves, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging devices from China. However, owing to the current crisis in China, the manufacturers of medical devices across the country are finding it difficult to source important electronic components and raw materials from Chinese factories.

This, in turn, is adversely affecting the conditions of small clinics and healthcare facilities in and around the country, leading them to shut down due to a lack of resources and manpower.

Lack of Personal Protective Equipment.
Even though in certain states, retired government doctors and nurses have been re-employed in order to meet the lack of support staff, many doctors around the country, who run small clinics, have been functioning with supreme efficacy, carrying out the role of the support staff as well. However, a severe shortage of high-quality PPE Kits has forced most of these doctors to keep their clinics shut for the time being.

On the contrary, Mohalla clinics actually have a huge role to play in combating COVID-19 - by standing headstrong on their grounds. The first step to make sure that clinics don’t abruptly shut down due to staff and doctors being infected is to ensure utmost safety through maintaining proper sanitation, hygiene, encouraging masks and adhering to the rule of staying three feet apart from each other. So, a ‘no entry without masks’ could actually accelerate the use of masks in the mohalla.

In that way, common, non-emergency cases would be treated in safety and with ease. In unpredictable times like these, these clinics are the saviours of the poor who are a vulnerable community. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the country, it has brought about an unprecedented strain on hospitals and clinics due to a shortage of testing and medical supplies and a lack of access to the same, among rural and underserved populations. The deadly virus has most certainly put a spotlight on some of the major inequities, all while revealing dents and holes in the healthcare delivery system that is definitely going to last for a long time now.