Use of Ayurvedic doctors to treat Covid patients by Health Ministry raises concern among public health expertsMinistry spokesperson says ‘treatment is treatment, anyone who can provide treatment can be used’.
Public health experts have raised concern after learning that the Ministry of Health and Population was deploying Ayurvedic doctors to the care of Covid-19 patients who are being treated in isolation at the National Ayurveda Research and Training Center in Kirtipur, Kathmandu.
They have said it is unethical and illegal to let practitioners of alternative medicine in the treatment of the Covid-19 patients.
The ministry is not only risking the lives of the patients but also the concerned Ayurvedic doctors and their family members, said Dr Baburam Marasini, former director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division.
“They know nothing about the infectious diseases. Infectious disease experts are needed to deal with the Covid-19 cases. How can traditional medicine practitioners treat the patients infected with highly contagious disease, when even the MBBS doctors know very little about it?” Marasini told the Post.
Dr Ram Adhar Yadav, director at the National Ayurveda Research and Training Center, said Ayurvedic practitioners were attending to the Covid-19 patients because the ministry has not deployed allopathic doctors and nurses.
“We have requested for doctors and nurses, but the ministry has not responded to our request yet,” said Yadav.
The center was converted into a 20-bed isolation treatment facility for Covid-19 patients. The facility has reached its capacity with the recent rise in cases of coronavirus infection in the Kathmandu Valley. The Health Ministry has not assigned any doctors or nurses to treat and monitor these patients.
Deploying Ayurvedic doctors to treat Covid-19 patients is also an ethical issue, which can not only raise controversy but also defame the country internationally, warned Marasini.
Without a medical licence, even those individuals with advanced medical degrees from world’s top universities cannot be involved in medical practice in Nepal.
But as to why the Health Ministry decided to allow Ayurvedic doctors to look after the Covid-19 patients, public health experts are not sure and clearly concerned.
“Ayurveda and allopathic medicines are separate methods—the former is empirical and the latter is evidence-based treatment,” said Dr Dhundi Raj Paudel, executive member of Nepal Medical Council, the national regulatory body of medical doctors, “Using Ayurveda doctor in treatment of Covid patients is unethical. We cannot mix up Ayurved and allopathy.”
Paudel added Ayurveda doctors are not even trained to handle Covid-19 cases and have knowledge about the risk factors and the use of personal protective equipment.
“The Health Ministry might have been encouraged by the promotion of traditional medicines by our prime minister,” an official at the Department of Health Services said on condition of anonymity.
The official was referring to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s oft-repeated claims that Covid-19 is like the common cold and could be treated with home remedies.
The Health Ministry has said that there is nothing wrong in using Ayurvedic doctors to treat the Covid-19 patients.
“What is wrong in providing treatment by an Ayurveda doctor in isolation?” said Dr Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson for the ministry, said, “Treatment is treatment, and anyone who can provide treatment can be used.”
He said the patients at the Ayurveda center had mild symptoms and the people attending them only had to perform minor medical tasks like monitoring their temperatures and blood pressures.
“If any of the patients become seriously sick, they will be transferred to hospital for proper treatment,” Gautam said.
As of Monday, 16,945 people have been infected with Civid-19 including 38 deaths. Among them 356 cases are in Kathmandu Valley.
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.