Hospitals across Lumbini overwhelmed with increasing Covid-19 caseloadIll-equipped hospitals with limited staff are unable to handle the rising number of coronavirus cases, health workers say.
On Friday, Geeta Chand from Nepalgunj was at a restaurant outside Bheri Hospital, placing an order for a bowl of lentil soup for her husband who is admitted at the hospital for Covid-19 treatment. She has been staying by her husband’s side for the past few days as his attendant.
“I share the sleeping space on the floor of the Covid-19 ward with other patients. I may be infected too. I don’t know,” said Chand. “But I’ve decided to stay here with my husband because there is no one else at the hospital to look after him.”
Nepalgunj-based Bheri Hospital is one of the designated corona treatment centres in Banke. With the number of Covid-19 cases on the rise in the district, the hospital is bursting at the seams.
Chand says the staff at the hospital has not been particularly proactive in providing medical attention to Covid-19 patients.
“Staff nurses at the hospital rarely come to the ward to check on patients. That’s why most patients here are accompanied by their family members,” she said. “On Tuesday, one of the patients was asking for water. He didn’t have any attendant to look after him. He died the same day. The past few days have been heartbreaking for me.”
Dirgha Bahadur Tiruwa, the attendant of another Covid-19 patient at the hospital, says he too has been sleeping on the floor at the Covid-19 ward. His brother is currently admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.
“We have to request the doctors to come for medical rounds. It’s chaos here,” he said.
Dr Rajan Pandey, one of the doctors at the Bheri Hospital, says the hospital is at a breaking point with a limited number of medical staff, affecting their response time to individual patients.
“We have one nurse assigned to more than 60 patients. We are stretched thin,” he said. “The situation in Nepalgunj has gone out of control.”
The hospital currently has the capacity to supply oxygen to just six patients while there are more than 100 patients who need to be placed in immediate ventilator support, says Pandey.
The hospital needs an additional 10 nursing staff, 10 anaesthetists and 20 helpers immediately.
“We have been requesting the provincial and federal governments to manage human resources for the hospital but no arrangements have been made so far,” Pandey said.
On Thursday, two health workers, who were deployed at the Covid-19 ward of Bheri Hospital, tested positive for the virus but the hospital administration could not make arrangements for their treatment either.
“We should’ve been able to help frontline workers but we are helpless. I can understand the frustration of patients and their family members but there is very little we can do unless the authorities step in,” he said.
Bheri Hospital has a total of 142 isolation beds, 35 ICU beds and seven ventilators. “All of those beds and ventilators are occupied,” said Pandey.
According to him, over 80 percent of people who underwent Covid-19 tests in the last few days have tested positive for the virus.
The overwhelming percentage of patients seeking admission at the hospital has crippled the medical infrastructure. People have to wait long for their chance at securing a bed in the hospital’s Covid-19 ward. A new patient is admitted only after the recovery and discharge of another Covid-19 patient.
On Thursday night, a woman from Barbardiya in Bardiya district had to wait for five hours to get admitted to the Covid-19 ward. “I had no option but to wait. Thankfully, one patient got discharged and I was admitted,” she said.
“Around a 100 people are testing positive for Covid-19 on a daily basis. All 142 isolation beds at the Covid-19 ward are occupied. The situation is beyond control. There isn’t much we can do until we get help from all quarters,” said Dr Prakash Thapa, the medical superintendent at the Bheri Hospital. “We feel helpless for being unable to treat every patient who comes to the hospital.”
On Thursday, 388 people tested positive for Covid-19 in Banke district. Ranjha-based White House Hotel building was converted into an isolation centre the previous day.
According to the District Health Office in Banke, over 1,000 Covid-19 patients are staying in home isolation. Bheri Hospital and Nepalgunj Medical College Teaching Hospital are the only two Covid-19 designated hospitals in the district as of now.
“There have been demands from all quarters to rope in other hospitals to accommodate the growing number of Covid-19 patients in the district,” said Pramod Dhital, chairman of Bheri Hospital Development Committee. “That would come as a huge relief for the medical fraternity and for the public.”
A similar scenario is playing out in another district of Lumbini Province. At the Corona Special Hospital in Beljhundi, Dang, 42 Covid-19 patients are receiving treatment at the 35-bed hospital.
According to Dorna Oli, manager of the hospital, the hospital administration has been turning away Covid-19 patients for a lack of beds and other necessary medical equipment. “Five patients are admitted to the ICU while the remaining 37 have been administered with medical oxygen,” said Oli. “We cannot take in any more patients.”
Around 17 to 20 Covid-19 cases are being reported in Dang on a daily basis.
Currently, Bhim Hospital in Bhairahawa, Rupandehi, is also filled to the brim. The 25-bed hospital is unable to admit new patients. On Friday, 227 individuals tested positive for Covid-19 in the district.
“All 13 ICU beds and four ventilators at our hospital are occupied. There are seven other patients in the fever clinic as well. The Covid-19 caseload is increasing by the day across the province. We need immediate support from all quarters before the medical infrastructure comes crashing down,” said Dr Sudarshan Thapa, a physician at the Corona Special Hospital in Butwal.
(With inputs from local correspondents in Lumbini Province)