Patients with chronic conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease, have had their services interrupted for the past three months, with consequences ranging from late appointments and late diagnoses to deaths.
Cancer patients, for example, have had delays in ambulatory surgeries, diagnostic radiological examinations, and early detection tests.
This is revealed by a telephone survey commissioned by the American Cancer Society (SAC) of Puerto Rico to measure the “Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on cancer patients and survivors.”
Among the 409 participants, 34% saw their medical treatments affected by this situation, 50% faced family financial difficulties and 14% had problems acquiring their medications.
"There will be more deaths from chronic conditions, not from COVID," he said. María Cristy, vice president of Cancer Control and Patient Services at the SAC, interpreting the results.
According to Cristy, a study published in the scientific journal The Lancet found that cancer patients are more at risk of seeing their health affected with COVID-19. In addition, their mortality rate is more than double that of patients with the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
“There are going to be more related deaths (from the pandemic), and we know that we are going to see problems of access, health complications, more advanced stages at the time of diagnosis and a dislocation in prevention programs. This will result in more deaths (from cancer) in excess (than usual) in the coming months, "he said.
Brenda Padilla, executive director of the Puerto Rican Diabetes Association, said, for her part, that in diabetics , more anxiety and worry have been noticed, which can increase their sugar levels.
“As there are many people without work, there are patients who are not buying all their medicines. And many fear going to their doctors or to the hospital because they do not want to be infected (with COVID), "he said.
According to Padilla, this can lead to complications, such as ulcers, amputations, vision and heart problems.
Meanwhile, Ángela Díaz, executive director of the Renal Council of Puerto Rico, indicated that the most affected kidney patients have been those of the early stages, since the most impacted require health services at the primary level. He warned that many lost their jobs and were left without a medical plan. He added that those who urgently requested catastrophic coverage were also shocked, since this management cannot be done by telephone.
"I have always said that it was not COVID (the most dangerous), that what was going to be affected were the chronic diseases, which are increasing. That there will be indirect deaths and deaths in the homes, because for fear of not getting it, they do not go out to look for services. It is a complicated picture and the responsibility is shared between providers and the government, "he said.
Lilliam Rodríguez, director of VOCES, Puerto Rico Vaccination Coalition, commented that Puerto Rico is one of the jurisdictions with the most deaths added in recent months.
"As happened with Hurricane Maria there are going to be so many deaths that they are not going to count as a pandemic crisis," he lamented.
that now patients will take time to see their doctors, since they can now attend less than before.
“We ask the governor (Wanda Vázquez Garced) to sit down with us to talk. She has the resources to help the organizations that serve patients, "he indicated.
He added that they have already met with the Health Secretary, Lorenzo González, who recognized this situation, but have not seen any action to help them.
“It's like the perfect storm for more deaths. It is what we want to communicate (and avoid), "he concluded.
According to Rodríguez, in Puerto Rico there are approximately 1.2 million patients with chronic diseases.