Patients complain of poor health services at Koshi HospitalMany posts of medical staff at the 250-bed hospital are vacant, which has affected services.
Laxmi Pasman, an expecting mother from Katahari Rural Municipality Ward 3, is a regular at Koshi Hospital in Biratnagar. She has been visiting the hospital every few days for her health check-up in the last seven months. But her experience at the hospital has been anything but smooth.
“I have to plan for a three-day visit to Biratnagar when I go to hospital. It’s difficult to get an appointment with the doctors since they are not always available,” said Pasman. “We have to wait at least two days for our turn to see a doctor. It’s equally difficult to get prompt services at the hospital.”
Koshi Hospital is one of the biggest government hospitals in Province 1 which sees patients in the thousands every day. Seventeen years ago, the hospital was upgraded to a 250-bed facility from 100 beds but the hospital runs with the same strength of human resource and medical infrastructure as it used to.
The shortcomings of the hospital have adversely affected all service seekers coming to the hospital.
Sajan Khatun, a resident of Bhokraha Ward 2 in Sunsari, was at the hospital on Friday accompanying her pregnant daughter-in-law. She spent the entire day queuing up outside various departments waiting for her daughter-in-law’s turn.
“There's a long queue in every ward and section of the hospital. Seeking treatment here is a tedious process,” said Khatun.
Dikshya Basnet, a resident of Rangeli Ward 3, was also at the hospital on Friday with complaints of a headache. She waited for her turn but at the end of the day she had to return without seeing a doctor. “I waited for my turn in a queue from early morning but it was taking so long. I couldn’t bear standing there so I went to a private clinic nearby looking for a doctor,” she said. “My treatment cost me much more than it would have at Koshi Hospital but I had no choice.”
A majority of the patients who visit Koshi Hospital for treatment have similar complaints about the long waiting period for one’s turn to see a doctor or a medical staffer. Since most patients are from impoverished households, they do not have the luxury to seek treatment at private hospitals.
According to Nawaraj Luitel, a non-gazetted first class officer of the hospital, a shortage of human resource at the hospital has limited the existing staff from providing better facilities to patients.
“The hospital has been functioning without the full staff for many years,” said Luitel. “The hospital with 250 beds is catering to more than 350 people per day. The Hospital Development Committee has arranged for stretches, trolleys and free space on the floor to accommodate the flow of patients.
Most of the posts for various medical staff are vacant at the hospital.
The Ministry of Health and Population has allocated 18 posts of chief consultant doctors. But only one chief consultant doctor currently works at the hospital. Likewise, out of 40 posts of senior consultants, only 16 are filled.
Dr Chumanlal Das, the only chief consultant doctor at the hospital, said, “We have somehow appointed 25 medical officers. We run our operations with the help of the Hospital Development Committee. Out of 61 positions open for staff nurses, only 46 are filled.”
According to Das, the hospital is also struggling to provide radiology services due to the lack of radiologists. “The hospital has two posts of senior consultant radiologists. But, both positions have been vacant for a long time,” said Das. “The Ministry did not equip the hospital when it was a 100-bed hospital. They upgraded the hospital to a 250-bed capacity but still did not fill the vacant posts.”
“There is very little we can do about the situation,” he said.
According to the hospital data, its Outdoor Patient Department receives 1,100 to 1,300 patients; Indoor Patient Department receives up to 500 patients and around 100 to 150 patients visit the Emergency Ward of the hospital on a daily basis.
According to Das, they had notified the Ministry of Health and Population to sanction 1,138 posts of health workers after conducting a recent survey of the hospital. “This request is to upgrade Koshi Hospital to a 500-bed hospital. We are waiting for the decision of the ministry.”