Health workers in Province 1 demand facilities at hospitals to treat Covid-19 patientsHealth workers and ambulance drivers are at high risk of Covid-19 since they don’t have personal protective equipment.
Health workers at Koshi Hospital in Biratnagar staged a protest on Wednesday, stating that the hospital administration has not provided them with protective gears, including face masks. They have demanded better protective gears and facilities to treat suspected Covid-19 patients.
“We don’t have protective gears, not even basics like facemasks,” said Bindu Siwakoti, a nurse at the hospital. “Over 30 patients with fever visit the hospital daily, and the number of visitors is increasing by the day. There is a high chance of coronavirus spreading in the health institution.”
Dr Laxmi Narayan Yadav, who leads the team of medical doctors treating suspected Covid-19 patients, said the hospital administration has distributed the available 23 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) to health workers but that’s not enough. “We require at least 12 pairs of PPE to treat one single patient, and we don’t have any left now,” said Yadav. “Because of the lack of protective gears, we have been sending patients home to stay in self-isolation.”
Health staff deployed in the treatment of suspected coronavirus patients in the province said they are facing problems due to lack of testing kits and personal protective equipment. They demanded better facilities in hospitals, including food provisions and a temporary lodging arrangement in the hospital, since going home puts their family members at risk of contracting the disease.
Yadav said the health workers are demanding to stay in the hospital so they can protect their family members and limit the spread of the virus.
“We have asked for help from the provincial government. Hopefully, we will hear from them soon,” said Yadav.
Ambulance drivers at the hospital, too, say they feel unsafe handling patients these days, as they are working without protective gears. Central member of Joint Ambulance Drivers Association of Nepal Chandra Parajuli said ambulance drivers so far are relying on hand sanitisers and they have not received protective gears from anyone so far.
Many hospitals in the province, including Nobel Medical College and Birat Medical College, lack protective equipment and viral transport medium (VTM) to transport throat swabs collected from suspected persons.
Meanwhile, Suresh Mehta, chief of the Public Health Department under the Ministry of Social Development of the province, claimed the ministry has provided PPE to all government hospitals in the province.
“Of the 200 sets of PPE, we have distributed all but 15 among all hospitals in the 14 districts,” said Mehta. “There are enough VTMs to collect throat samples.”
Mehta claimed a total of 941 quarantine facilities have been built in the province. He also said 142 isolation wards have been set up in various hospitals of the province and an isolation hospital with ventilator units is being built on the premises of the National Trading Corporation in Biratnagar.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of March 31, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 199 countries and infected more than 8,07,705 people with 39,456 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 1,865 with 25 deaths. While India has reported 1,251 confirmed cases with 32 deaths. Nepal has so far reported five cases, in which one patient recovered.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.