Bed shortage at public hospitals pushing Covid-19 patients to expensive private hospitalsThere are only two Covid-19 specific government hospitals in Kaski. As of Wednesday, 427 patients were being treated at private hospitals and 116 at government hospitals in the district.
On April 15, the Ministry of Health and Population directed all government hospitals across the country to allocate half of their beds for Covid-19 treatment. However, the Pokhara-based Western Regional Hospital under the Pokhara Academy of Health Sciences, which is a referral hospital of the Western Region, did not prepare as directed by the federal government.
The hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the country, allocated only 50 beds out of the total 370 beds and started Covid-19 treatment from April 29 onwards.
It is now running 93 beds including 38 isolation beds, 25 intensive care unit beds and 30 high dependency unit beds. However, as per the directive of the ministry, the hospital should allocate at least 185 beds for Covid-19 patients from across the province.
The hospital has permission to operate 500 beds altogether.
Sisuwa-based Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Pokhara, which is run by the provincial government, was the only designated Covid-19 specific hospital until the Western Regional Hospital was roped in.
The Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital has a total capacity of 50 beds but has added five more beds. It now has 15 isolation and 40 high dependency unit beds for Covid-19 patients. “We have not established an intensive care facility here due to a lack of infrastructure and skilled human resources,” said Dr Bikash Gauchan, the executive director of the hospital.
Within the third week of April, all beds at the Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital were occupied amid the surge of Covid-19 in the district. The Western Regional Hospital started providing treatment for Covid-19 patients after beds in Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital got fully occupied.
Since mid-April, critical Covid-19 cases have been reported in Kaski district and patients have been compelled to seek treatment at private hospitals given shortages of beds and human resources at government hospitals.
According to the administration of the Western Regional Hospital, the Ministry of Health has already allocated Rs 90 million for the installation of 200 high dependency unit beds. But the hospital has been unable to expand the high dependency unit since the hospital does not have an oxygen plant.
A week ago, a 60-year-old Covid-19 patient of Chapakot Ward No 6 in Syangja was taken to the Western Regional Hospital for treatment. But, the hospital did not admit him citing a shortage of beds. Later on, the patient was taken to Charak Memorial Hospital for treatment. However, the patient died on Tuesday. “We took him to Charak due to a shortage of beds at the government hospital,” said a relative of the deceased, adding that they spent a huge amount on the treatment of the patient. “But we could not save him.”
Dr Bharat Bahadur Khatri, director of the Pokhara Academy of Health Sciences, says the Western Regional Hospital has been providing treatment to Covid-19 patients from the Emergency Ward because of a shortage of beds. “We are still in the process of inviting a tender for oxygen pipes installation. The high dependency unit can be operated only after installing an oxygen piping system. The tender process is taking some time,” said Khatri.
Currently, 71 Covid-19 patients are undergoing treatment at the Western Regional Hospital and 50 are undergoing treatment in Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, according to the data of the District Health Office in Kaski.
The data of the District Health Office showed that two government hospitals, one community and 16 private hospitals in Pokhara are providing Covid-19 treatment.
Until Wednesday, 427 Covid-19 patients were admitted for treatment at the Western Regional Community Hospital, Charak Memorial, Manipal, Gandaki Medical College and Mediplus among other private hospitals in Pokhara while 116 Covid-19 patients were admitted to government hospitals — Western Regional Hospital and Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Pokhara, the two Covid-19 specific government hospitals in Kaski.
A Covid-19 patient at Charak Memorial Hospital, one of the private hospitals in Pokhara, has to submit Rs 150,000 as a deposit for treatment at the intensive care unit of the hospital. Patients have to pay around Rs 20,000 per day for a bed without oxygen or ventilator support at private hospitals.
There are 16 Covid-19 intensive care beds at Charak Memorial. Out of the 16 beds, only one bed was empty at the hospital on Wednesday. The treatment cost at Mediplus Hospital and Manipal Teaching Hospital, among other private hospitals in Pokhara, is also high, making it increasingly necessary for government hospitals to be fully prepared to take in Covid-19 patients.
A Pokhara youth from Ward No 12 who has admitted his Covid-19 infected father to Gandaki Medical College, lamented to the Post about the burgeoning medical bill. “I have already spent over Rs 500,000 for my father’s treatment. There was no bed available in any of the government hospitals,” he said. “I had to bring him here but despite the expenses, I am glad he is recovering.”
According to the data of the Provincial Health Directorate, 700 Covid-19 patients are undergoing treatment at various hospitals in the Gandaki Province. Out of the total 65 ventilators in the province, 26 are occupied, the data of the Provincial Health Directorate showed.