Gandaki lacks hospital beds to care for Covid-19 patientsThe province has reported over 7,000 positive cases, with 3,000 active ones. But it has only 176 ICU beds and 57 ventilators.
A 52-year-old Covid-19 patient in Pokhara needed immediate hospitalisation after her health condition took a turn for the worse last week. She was rushed to the Western Regional Hospital but could not get admitted, as the health facility was out of ICU beds. The patient was finally able to get a bed at the hospital after getting a recommendation from the ward chairman. But she passed on the third day of her hospital stay.
Shortage of hospital beds in Pokhara, which has become a hotspot of novel coronavirus of late, is not uncommon. Kaski has reported over 1,600 active cases as of Saturday. However, the only Covid-19 special hospital in the district set up in the Western Regional Hospital has just 10 ICU beds and two ventilators.
As many as 269 people tested positive for the coronavirus in Gandaki Province on Friday alone. Among them, 183 are from Kaski. The infected people, especially those with pre-existing health conditions, are deprived of medical attention and health facilities due to the shortage of ICU beds.
The Gandaki Provincial government recently set up the Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Lekhnatha with an objective to provide treatment to Covid-19 patients. However, the hospital is yet to operate an ICU facility. The hospital administration said that despite having ICU beds and ventilators, it could not operate its ICU ward due to a shortage of skilled human resources. The hospital has an isolation ward with the capacity to hold 48 patients.
There are some private hospitals in Pokhara, including Manipal Teaching Hospital, Charak Memorial Hospital and Gandaki Medical College, that are providing treatment to Covid-19 patients. But they have limited ICU beds and the hospital fees are exorbitantly priced, which most people cannot afford.
A coronavirus patient staying at the isolation facility of Gandaki Medical College is charged a deposit amount of Rs 50,000 before getting admitted. For those requiring ventilator services, the deposit amount is Rs 100,000. The fees for other private hospitals in Pokhara are similarly priced.
Meanwhile, the regional hospital is treating coronavirus patients free of cost, as the provincial government had announced that it would provide free Covid-19 treatment. However, the hospital administration says it is not sure it will get funds from the government for Covid-19 treatment.
“The provincial government had also announced that it will provide a 25 percent allowance to health workers at the hospital. But the health workers have yet to receive the allowance,” Dr Arjun Acharya, director at the Western Regional Hospital. “The province government said it would bear the treatment expense of Covid-19 patients. We are not sure if and when it will provide the budget.”
Pokhara Metropolitan City Office is operating a 46-bed isolation centre in Malepatan Agriculture Training Centre. Currently, the isolation centre is fully occupied.
Hemanta Sharma Paudel, chief at the health section of the metropolis, said, “We are going to set up an isolation centre in the Lake City Hospital. However, the local unit does not have the capacity to operate an ICU ward there.”
In the last two weeks, the number of Covid-19 patients has been on the rise in Gandaki Province. The province has reported over 7,000 positive cases, with 3,000 active ones. But the entire province has only 176 ICU beds and 57 ventilators.
So far, six Covid-19 patients have died in their homes in Nawalparasi (East), Kaski and Parbat districts. Contact tracing and PCR tests are also at a snail’s pace in the province.
However, Dr. Binodbindu Sharma, the provincial health director, claims that Gandaki has Covid-19 infection under control.
“Our preparation is ahead of all other provinces when it comes to the management of quarantine, isolation, lab, human resources and technology,” said Sharma. But, there are only four PCR machines testing swab samples in the entire province.
According to the data of the Ministry of the Social Development, 1,550 individuals are staying in home isolation in the province. Dr. Sharma admitted that those individuals who are in home isolation without any medical assistance may be at risk.
Naradevi Pun, minister for Social Development, said, “We had not estimated that the infection rate would rise this quickly during the festival season. We are in the process to purchase additional ventilators. The process has been delayed due to technical difficulties.”