Kathmandu hospitals overwhelmed by Covid-19 patient surgeWith all beds occupied, authorities stop informing people about their test results.
For a new patient infected with coronavirus to get admission at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, another will have to be discharged, said the hospital.
Due to the rapid spike in the new cases in Kathmandu, all the beds and intensive care units available at hospitals allocated for Covid-19 patients are now occupied.
“We are not in a position to admit new patients at our hospital, as all beds are occupied,” Dr Sagar Raj Bhandari, the hospital’s director, told the Post. “We have to send asymptomatic patients home to self-isolate and provide treatment to serious patients.”
The situation is similar at other designated Covid-19 treatment hospitals in the Valley, as all of them have all of their beds occupied by patients. With beds unavailable for new patients, health ministry officials have even stopped contacting infected people to inform them about their test results.
“We have been struggling to manage beds for infected people,” an official at the ministry told the Post asking not to be quoted by name fearing retribution from the ministry for speaking out.
“Beds at all hospitals—Sukraraj, Patan Hospital, Armed Police Force, Tribhuvan University Teaching— and isolation facilities at Kirtipur are now occupied by infected people.”
Of the 62 people who tested positive until Monday evening, authorities could arrange beds only for 48. The remaining 14 were sent to Kathmandu Medical College’s isolation unit in Duwakot, Bhaktapur, on Tuesday.
“We are not in condition to contact people, who tested positive today, as we don’t have beds for them,” said that official. “If we contact them, they will not let us sleep the whole night.”
According to officials, 259 people tested positive for the disease on Tuesday, including 62 in Kathmandu Valley. An additional dozen cases could be detected until late in the evening, but authorities don’t plan to inform the individuals concerned about their results soon. “We have informed the health ministry about our problems,” another official said on the condition of anonymity. “When we informed them about the problems, they scolded us instead of trying to find a solution.”
Officials from the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division are now banking on the 100-bed isolation ward set up at the Kathmandu Medical College hospital in Duwakot by converting female wards into males. But that too has its challenges
“A few male patients can be adjusted there, but female patients can’t be sent there,” said the official. “All intensive care units and ventilators are occupied. We can do nothing, except inform senior officials. That’s what we’ve already done.”
Of the 716 active cases in Bagmati Province, over 90 percent are in various hospitals of Kathmandu Valley. Dr Basudev Pandey, director at the division, said that asymptomatic patients will have to be placed in home isolation, if the number of new cases keep rising at the current pace.
“Until now we haven’t sent anyone to isolate at home, except for those who insisted that they did so, and had the facilities required at home,” said Pandey. “The health ministry has already decided to send asymptomatic patients home.”
Doctors at the health ministry concede that the situation in the Valley is alarming, but said that there were no options but to take precautionary measures.
“We can’t restrict people’s movement. All we can do is request the public and other concerned agencies to take precautions,” Dr Roshan Pokhrel, chief specialist at the ministry, told the Post. “Other agencies concerned also have to shoulder their responsibilities, and more importantly, the members of the public need to follow the rules to control the spread of the infection.”
That’s why the ministry has recommended that hotels, restaurants and road side eateries be properly managed or shut down. Similarly, it has called on authorities to re-introduce the odd-even traffic rule for both public and private vehicles, and prevent people from entering the Valley.
But except for preventing people entering the valley from 7 pm to 7am, other recommendations have not been taken seriously.
Dr Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson for the ministry said that only those, who are serious and need treatment will now be admitted to hospitals. “Those who are asymptomatic and have facilities at home to stay in isolation need not go to the hospital,” said Gautam. “We will manage facilities for those who don’t have a separate isolation room at home.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Tuesday discussed the growing threat of Covid-19 with public health experts. “We have informed the prime minister about the lack of beds, intensive care unit and ventilators,” Dr Santa Kumar Das, coordinator of Covid-19 at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, told the Post. “We have also recommended some restrictions, which could be enforced soon.” Das, however, said that experts were against a lockdown of the type enforced in March.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 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. Covid-19 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 deaths.
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.