Oxygen plant left unused in Mugu District HospitalWork to install oxygen plant halted after public accounts committee of Karnali started investigation citing irregularities in procurement.
Health institutions across the country are gearing up to make the necessary preparations to contain the possible third wave of Covid-19. But the district hospital in Mugu, a remote district of Karnali Province, still does not have an oxygen plant to cope with the possible surge in Covid-19 cases.
Work to install an oxygen plant at the district hospital has been left in limbo for the past one year. The oxygen plant, which was purchased last year at Rs 4 million provided by the Karnali provincial government, is gathering dust at a time when its need is very essential.
“The hospital has been struggling to manage medical oxygen to provide treatment to Covid-19 patients. But the plant has been left unused at a corner of the hospital,” said Umesh Gautam, chief at the District Health Office.
According to him, the installation work of the oxygen plant has been halted for the past one week after the public account committee of the Karnali provincial assembly started an investigation stating that there were irregularities while purchasing the oxygen plant.
Hayat Private Limited, a supplier company, had purchased the oxygen plant at the cost of Rs 4 million. The public account committee started the investigation following reports of irregularities in the procurement process.
“The committee is yet to conclude its investigation. The plant might be unoperational as it has been left unused for a long time,” said Gautam, stating that the hospital is in immediate need of an oxygen plant to contain the possible outbreak of the third wave.
Human Rights & Environment Development Center, a non-governmental organisation working in Mugu, also provided another oxygen plant to the district hospital a month ago. This plant also could not be installed due to a lack of technicians in the district.
The district hospital in Mugu has a total of 110 oxygen cylinders but only 70 of them are filled with oxygen. The remaining oxygen cylinders need to be taken to Jumla, Surkhet or Nepalgunj for refilling.
The local people are concerned, as the health institutions in the district are without oxygen plants and have not done the necessary preparations to control the possible third wave of Covid-19.
“The district hospital is ill-equipped to handle another outbreak. It is yet to manage an oxygen plant and an isolation ward even though there is a high risk of a Covid-19 outbreak in the district,” said Kamal Shahi, a resident of Gamgadhi, the district headquarters of Mugu.
Mugu currently has two active Covid-19 cases. According to Gautam, two men from wards 1 and 5 of Khatyad Rural Municipality have tested positive for the virus and they have been taken to the isolation centre of Ratapani Primary Health Centre.
“Mugu has reported two Covid-19 cases. Cases will certainly rise in the district. It will be very difficult to provide treatment to Covid-19 patients since the hospital does not have an oxygen plant,” said Nahakul Shahi, a doctor at the district hospital.
Though the District Health Office does not have any concrete plan to install an oxygen plant, it says that works are underway to set up an isolation ward. According to Gautam, preparation is underway to set up an isolation ward in the old building behind the hospital.
Meanwhile, the District Health Office says that it has prioritised vaccination drives against Covid-19 in Mugu. According to the office, around 55 percent of people above 18 years of age have received both jabs of Covid-19 vaccines and around 88 percent of people of the same age group have received the first dose.
Gautam also said that all children aged 12 to 17 have received Moderna vaccines in the district.
“The health office plans to administer vaccines to all people above 18 years of age in the district,” said Gautam.
Out of 10 districts of Karnali, the country’s most remote province, five districts—Mugu, Dolpa, Humla, Rukum (West) and Salyan—still do not have oxygen cylinders.