Bara is inadequately prepared to handle outbreak, health officials sayElected representatives claim they have fully-equipped health desks and isolation wards, which is not true.
For thousands of rural population in Bara, primary health centres are their only lifeline in times of sickness. But as the country is preparing itself to prevent a major outbreak of Covid-19, which has been devastating many parts of the world, these health facilities find themselves under-equipped to care for a patient with suspected or confirmed case of the highly contagious disease.
They lack the resources, both human and equipment, to treat Covid-19 patients.
At this time of medical emergency, the medical workers at Ganjbawanipur Primary Health Centre in Mahagadhimai Municipality do not even have enough face masks and hand sanitisers.
“We have been purchasing face masks and hand sanitisers for ourselves. The government has not sent any item that could help us deal with a possible Covid-19 outbreak,” said Nirmala Kumari Pandit, an auxiliary nurse midwife, at the centre said.
The primary health centre is led by one doctor, who is assisted by a small staff of auxiliary nurse midwives and health assistants. The 12-room facility does not have enough beds in case of mass illness. The only beds available are at the birthing centre and the emergency ward, and they are not remotely enough to accommodate even a dozen patients at once.
“Even if the centre had enough beds, it lacks medicines and medical equipment,” Pratima Chaudhary, another auxiliary nurse midwife, at the centre said. “Even the essential medicines are hard to come by. We have been referring most of our patients to other health facilities because we lack the means to treat them here at the centre.”
Even hospitals in the district are poorly equipped. Kalaiya Hospital at the district headquarters, for instance, lacks the drugs and medical equipment to treat and contain a major outbreak of an infectious disease.
Setting up a 15-bed isolation ward is the only preparation the hospital has made against Covid-19, Manoj Yadav, a hospital staff member, said.
“The hospital does not have the necessary medical equipment and medicines to treat suspected Covid-19 patients.”
While many health professionals in Bara are insisting that the district is underprepared in all departments to handle a major outbreak of the disease, the elected representatives are claiming that they have built fully-equipped health desks and isolation wards to deal with a possible public health emergency due to Covid-19.
Bharat Bhandari, the mayor of Kolhawi Municipality, said that his office had even managed Personal Protective Equipment for health workers.
Similarly, Chandan Singh, the chairman of Devtal Rural Municipality, said his office was distributing face masks and hand sanitisers to health workers.
Many health facilities in Bara have in fact set up isolation wards to keep suspected Covid-19 patients, but whether these facilities are fully-equipped and their staff confident to deal with an actual emergency is a different story.
The two-bed isolation ward set up by the local municipal government in Simraungadh is a case in point.
“We have set up two beds to isolate patients but we don’t have beddings and bed sheets,” Manu Yadav, a local health worker, said. “We don’t even have proper beds to keep two patients, let alone personal protective equipment.”
One cannot rule out the possibility of the Covid-19 spread in Bara. People are still defying the nationwide lockdown by going out and the movement of people through smaller border crossings between Nepal and India has not stopped.
“We are trying to stop the movement of people on the border points, but we alone cannot do this alone. We need support from all stakeholders and the locals should also heed to the government’s request,” Digbijaya Subedi, superintendent of the Armed Police Force, said.
Chief District Officer Rudra Singh Pandit also appealed to the people to comply with the lockdown orders.
“Our only chance of stopping Covid-19 is taking preventive measures and staying home at this moment. The people should cooperate with the local administration and not defy the lockdown,” Pandit said.