Private hospitals not taking fever patients, forcing people to seek treatment at state-run health facilitiesThe government is considering seeking clarification from the hospitals turning down patients, Health Ministry spokesperson says.
On Sunday, Puja, a resident of Kageshwori-Manohara Municipality-6, visited Nepal Medical College Teaching Hospital, as she had a high fever, sore throat and diarrhoea. But health workers at the hospital refused to attend to her, and instead asked her to visit Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku.
“The hospital was not running its outpatient department, and the health workers there told me that they did not have sufficient personal protective equipment and medical gear to check fever patients,” the 19-year-old told the Post. “It is also not easy to reach Sukraraj hospital from my home during the lockdown.”
She was worried that she might have contracted the coronavirus, as high fever, sore throat and diarrhoea are the symptoms of the infectious disease.
Like Nepal Medical College Teaching Hospital, most of the private hospitals across the country are not running their outpatient departments and have not set up separate fever clinics, as directed by the Ministry of Health and Population. This has forced patients to seek treatment at state-run health facilities.
But all patients cannot visit the state-run health facilities as they are far from their homes, and that’s exactly what happened with Puja, who wished to be identified by her first name only.
As the country is trying to contain the spread of Covid-19, a disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus now dubbed SARS-Cov-2, the government has designated Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital as the primary health facility for treating the Covid-19 patients.
Private hospitals, however, seem to be sending every other person with fever to Sukraraj hospital. And even if some private hospitals are open to the public, senior doctors are not attending to them.
A patient visiting Norvic International Hospital on Monday complained that only nurses and junior doctors were attending to the sick.
“Senior doctors hardly show up,” the patient told the Post. “We sought treatment at the hospital hoping to get quality care, but only junior doctors and nurses are attending to us.”
RP Mainali, deputy general manager of corporate communication at Norvic, admits that the health institution has not been running its outpatient department services since the lockdown started.
“We refer patients of high fever to Sukraraj hospital,” Mainali told the Post. “We are running our emergency ward, isolation ward and intensive care services only. We do not have personal protective equipment and safety gears to look after patients of fever.”
Mainali said that some doctors and nurses serving at the hospital are concerned about getting infected by Covid-19.
Kumar Thapa, chairman of Alka Hospital, said that his hospital has been using locally made personal protective equipment, which does not protect health workers from highly infectious diseases like Covid-19.
“The government has not provided us with any safety gear and we cannot buy them from the local market,” said Thapa. “How can we force doctors to attend to patients with symptoms of coronavirus without any protective equipment?”
He, however, said that Alka Hospital has been running a separate fever clinic.
The government, however, has asked the private hospitals not to turn down the patients visiting for fever.
Dr Bikash Devkota, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population, said that fever is not a disease in itself and it could be a symptom of other ailments, so private hospitals should not reject fever patients.
“Patients having appendicitis also suffer from fever, and if denied treatment, such patients can die,” Devkota told the Post. “We are well aware that private hospitals are not attending to patients with fever, and have directed them to fulfil their responsibilities.”
The Health Ministry is considering seeking clarification from private hospitals for not attending to fever patients, according to Devkota.
Basanta Kumar Chaudhary, president of the Association of Private Health Institution of Nepal, said that hospital operators are in a very difficult situation, as they cannot force doctors to attend to fever patients without any personal protective equipment.
“Without safety gear, doctors and nurses might get infected and spread the disease to other patients,” Chaudhary told the Post.
Chaudhary, who is also the proprietor of Norvic International Hospital, said that his hospital is in the process of importing protective gears from abroad.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of June 2, 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 had spread to 213 countries and infected more than 6,321,836 people with 375,657 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 198,140 with 5,608 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 72,460 confirmed cases with 1,543 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 2,099 cases with eight 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.