Critical Covid-19 patients can’t get treatment in LamjungThe district has not set up an ICU facility even after receiving funds six months ago.
On May 19, Gandaki provincial government had allocated Rs 16.9 million to the District Community Hospital in Lamjung for the construction of an intensive care unit with ventilators and other medical equipment. Six months into the plan and the hospital has yet to manage the infrastructure and necessary medical equipment required to operate the ICU.
In the absence of an ICU in Lamjung, Covid-19 patients in critical condition have to go to Pokhara or Chitwan for treatment.
Narayan Ghimire, 41, a local of Ward No. 7 in Besishahar Municipality, was infected with Covid-19 two weeks back. “I had to go to another district since treatment in Lamjung was not possible. I was admitted at Chitwan Medical College for 13 days and returned home two days ago,” he said.
According to him, Lamjung residents have to wait for four days to receive their PCR report. “That is why patients are taken directly to Chitwan, Pokhara or Kathmandu if they show Covid-19-related symptoms,” Ghimire said.
Swab samples from the district are being taken to the Provincial Laboratory in Pokhara for PCR tests, according to the District Health Office. The district does not have a PCR testing lab in any of its hospitals.
According to the district’s health office, the number of infections in Lamjung has been oscillating between two to five per day in the past few days. So far, 549 individuals have tested positive for Covid-19 in the district. Among them, 29 Covid-patients are staying in the isolation facility of the District Community Hospital.
Ram Kumar Shrestha, a local of Ward No. 8 of Besishahar Municipality, says the authorities’ delayed response to the spread of the virus in the district has put public health at risk.
“The delay in the construction of the ICU is an example of how lightly the authorities are taking this pandemic,” he said. “If the number of critical patients increases in Lamjung, the chances of their recovery is slim here.”
According to the District Health Office, the provincial government had provided it with a budget for the construction of a five-bed isolation centre with two ventilators.
“On June 5, the District Health Office invited a tender to purchase equipment for the ICU. But no one applied for the contract. After a month, on July 10, we invited a tender for the second time. Finally, we found a contractor and construction works were initiated from August 30,” said Amar Dawadi, chief at the District Health Office, adding that the contractor had agreed to complete the construction work of the ICU within a month.
According to Dawadi, three suppliers had agreed to bring ventilators and a portable X-ray machine but the medical equipment have yet to arrive. Pokhara-based Pratik Suppliers had agreed to supply ventilators and a portable X-ray machine with other supportive equipment needed to operate the ICU.
“Ventilators have to be imported from Europe but since European countries are struggling with the pandemic, there has been a delay in procurement,” said Dawadi.
Meanwhile, Hemanta Shrestha, chief at the hospital, said, “One generator and intensive care beds have arrived. But we are yet to receive ventilators and we don’t have enough space to fit five intensive care beds.”
According to him, the hospital plans to install two ventilators and two intensive care beds in the first phase of operations but the plan has been on hold since the initial budget released by the provincial government has failed to cover all expenses. “We have demanded an additional Rs 4.9 million fund for the construction of an ICU building big enough to accommodate all necessary medical equipment,” said Shrestha.
The District Hospital, which was established 45 years ago, does not have an ICU. The hospital was handed over by the government to the community 19 years ago.
Three months ago, eight local units in the district had provided the hospital with Rs 200,000 each to establish an isolation centre. Gandaki provincial government had also provided the hospital with Rs 1million to purchase medical equipment and other infrastructure, according to the hospital administration. The hospital runs a 40-bed isolation facility.
Meanwhile, in Parbat, the district hospital has installed an oxygen plant for the treatment of Covid-19 patients in the district. The oxygen generation plant was installed at the hospital on Wednesday.
The hospital in Parbat has stopped referring critical Covid-19 patients to other districts for lack of oxygen facilities. Govinda Pahadi, chairman at the Hospital Development Committee, said, “The oxygen plant was installed at a total cost of Rs 6 million. Now, medical oxygen is easily available for the treatment of Covid-19 patients here.”
The 15-bed hospital has also increased its holding capacity to 35 beds for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. Dr Shishir Devkota, acting medical superintendent at the hospital, said, “Every bed is fitted with an oxygen cylinder. The oxygen plant has a capacity of 16 cylinders with 100-litre each,” he said.
Agandhar Tiwari in Parbat contributed reporting.