The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the care of people with epilepsy (PWE). Several online surveys were conducted but there is limited data regarding impact on low-income PWE from lower-middle income countries (LMICs) who have no access or ability to answer online surveys. The purpose of this interview was to understand the challenges faced by low-income PWE during the lockdown phase of the pandemic.
PWE visiting the epilepsy specialty outpatient department of a tertiary referral government hospital to avail of subsidized services were interviewed. In the interview, they discussed challenges in obtaining medical care, the impact on wellbeing, employment, and vaccination status during the lockdown phase of the pandemic.
Out of the 214 PWE interviewed, 20.6% had increased seizure frequency, 28.9 % did not have access to medication mainly due to travel restrictions, 30.5% reported lack of availability of medication and 50% were not able to afford the medication mainly due to loss of income. 51% were unable to have follow-up consultations. 36% reported worsening of mood and some reported impact on other aspects of wellbeing. The impact on wellbeing was significantly associated with an increase in seizure frequency. The study revealed hesitation related to vaccines in the majority and expectations of financial support by the government and assistance for procuring medication. There was a lack of awareness about telemedicine services and the same was not adequately offered by government hospitals.
The study underscores the need to learn lessons from the challenging experiences of low-income PWE and create an action plan for the future to address the issues of lack of affordability of medical care and access to telemedicine. It is critical that the care of the marginalized, underrepresented PWE from lower-middle income countries is not neglected during a pandemic.